In the years following my career, I spent a lot of time reflecting on our fleet’s success; both how we got there as well as the customer service fundamentals involved. One of the most profound discoveries I made was the concept of a customer service “Hierarchy of Success” (HoS).
This is useful for many reasons. Its value, however, is not in the theory but in identifying how to succeed beyond most people’s comprehension.
First, it defines the lowest level of success as survival. Without that, there is no success. It also identifies the ultimate level as what I describe as thriving. This is a level of achievement that few are aware of, and of those, most think of it as impossible, unrealistic, or just not feasible in their situation. I know, having been there.
The HoS also clearly identifies the fundamental principle of customer satisfaction as being the sole measure of success. Another real value of the HoS is identifying seven key fleet best practices and how they relate to achieving each level - the following provides a basic outline of these.
Survival – A Sole Focus on Costs
The lowest level of customer satisfaction is often associated with service providers who have no real competition. This allows them the luxury of continuing to provide sub-par services and remain in business. An identifying feature of this level is typically a fleet’s sole focus on reducing costs, which only serves to perpetuate this marginal level of service.
Identifying Service Performance as a Goal
This level is achieved by adding service quality to the goal of reducing costs, thus optimizing service performance. While this sounds simple, it’s a significant advancement for fleets at Level I with both management understanding and capabilities.
Being the Best
Providing competitive services is obviously a prerequisite to achieving this level. This goal is quite difficult to achieve and maintain in any competitive environment. The service provider must have a high level of management skills, including innovation and constant improvement by incorporating both process improvement and process redesign. Integral components of this also involve incorporating a teamwork environment (with team members and customers) and identifying all of your customers (not only primary customers, but ancillary ones such as those in the community, your suppliers, regulatory agencies, etc.). It also entails managing the customer experience process from beginning to end along with your team member relationships and behavior. In other words, it’s almost always a formidable challenge.
Becoming Your Customers’ First and Best Choice
This sounds like a simple follow-up to the previous level, and it is, somewhat; achieving this level, however, involves another level of understanding with fleet management and providing exceptional customer service. This is achieved by marketing your services using all communication tools and further leveraging teaming up with your customers. This ensures that your customers recognize you are “the best.” Without this, you provide your competition this opportunity.
Win/Win Results with Customers
There are two principal distinguishing features of thriving. The first is when your customers realize that your fleet’s services are an integral component of their success. The second is the need for constant innovation to add value to the services provided. This extends to creating services for customers that they didn’t realize they needed. This is the ultimate level of success in that it provides both optimal customer satisfaction combined with ensuring continuing success in the future. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Putting It All Together
At this point, I hope this brief outline of the HoS is sufficient to identify its value. While this is specifically aimed at fleets, the principles can be applied to any customer service business, practice, or worker. It’s a simple but typically very difficult transition in that it not only involves acquiring additional knowledge and skills, but also changing culture. Changing culture often requires a significant amount of time. In my instance, it spanned an entire career.
A key point to keep in mind is that any progress with your HoS level represents improved success. It’s not about possibly falling short, it’s about the opportunity – for you, your associates, your organization, and your stakeholders. With ambition and ability, you’ll find unlimited possibilities.