Improving Customer Service

Issue # 54 of 70 




John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self


Customer Event


Have you heard of the term "Customer Event?" To me, it has a kind of resonant quality. In The Power of Corporate Kinetics by Michael Fradette and Steve Michaud, a customer event is "the work of the enterprise immediately and profitably performed to satisfy a unique, single customer demand."

At first, you might take it to mean the same as a kind of "moment of truth" when, in fact, it is much more. A moment of truth is typically the instant when there is contact between a customer and anyone in the service organization. There are usually several such moments of truth in a typical customer transaction. However, in the case of a customer event it's the sum of all aspects of the transaction, including the sale, order, production, delivery and follow-through that count as one sole "customer event."

"What's the big deal?" you may be asking yourself. Well, it's that many times we get so concerned with the moment of truth that we forget about the sum total of events. After all, when the customer leaves, it is the sum total of their experience that will remain. Overlooking the customer event is like focusing on one single tree while forgetting that there is a whole forest out there.

Many times a new manager will get so caught up in a problem or an aspect of their job that they will forget about the whole business. For example, when a crisis brews, the manager focuses on that one incident, not thinking about the rest of the operation. They forget about delegation or moving resources around to cover any temporary emergencies. If they were to see the customer event, rather than the moment, they would go a long way toward raising customer satisfaction.

If we could just get our entire work force to view customer service as an entire product composed of many smaller components, then the "big picture" would make more sense in that it is tied into the individual. The old phrase that employees are all tuned into a radio station called WII-FM springs to mind. It's not an actual radio station but rather an acronym for "What's In It For Me?" If the company's management has not instilled a sense of pride, then, in reality, all the incentives and monetary prizes that are offered will be done so in vain. It is pride in one's job that creates both loyalty and a sense of customer service that goes far beyond the job description.

Finally, to finish, I'd like to put it all in perspective with a tale about communication:

There was a family that had a child who would not say a word. By his third birthday, the parents finally thought it might be a physical problem, so they took him in for a check-up. The son was found to be in perfect shape. A few more years passed and finally, when the boy was 6 years old, the family was having breakfast. The boy blurted out that the toast was burnt. The family was startled and the mother asked, "What made you finally say something when you've been silent for years?"

The boy simply said, "Up until now, everything's been fine."

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.


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For more customer service articles, visit the Customer Service series on the new Sideroad: Practical Advice Straight from The Experts.

Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.