Service Excellence Defined (and Illustrated)

Service excellence can be hard to define -- it often falls into the "know it when I see it" category of vague, but important distinctions.  Part of the challenge is the subjectivity of a word like excellence. Not all customers value service attributes in the same way. The intimacy you enjoy with a waiter who asks about your children and remembers how you like your burger may feel intrusive and jarring to me (hypothetically, of course).

I'd like to ground the definition of service excellence in the idea of reliability.  Service excellence is the consistent delivery of a high value/price experience, day after day, year after year, regardless of who happens to be on the front lines of the delivery process. It is the systematic output of a service model that is designed explicitly to produce it.  It is not the typical way we consume good service today, which is when entrepreneurial employees take it upon themselves to meet our needs in spite of the system.

In the spirit of know-it-when-I-see-it, I'm starting a highly subjective, incomplete list of service organizations that have reliably offered me (or people I know) excellent service.  I hope this brings the concept to life a bit. I also hope to learn from you. I would love to hear about other organizations you'd add to this list.

  • Lexus Service Centers - incredible that this level of service is possible and its competitors are choosing not to do it.
  • USAA - very difficult to find an unsatisfied customer
  • Zappos - very difficult to find an unsatisfied customer or employee
  • - two-day shipping, scheduled at your convenience (including evenings and weekends), for $49 per year
  • Progressive Insurance - offers differentiated features such as Immediate Response vans and Total Repair
  • Four Seasons - unobtrusive excellence, if you like that sort of thing
  • J. Crew - straightforward excellence in the retail stores (thanks Kristin!)
Tuesday, April 7, 2009