Managers are coming up short on service.

A recent series of studies by Marketing Focus has revealed that more than four in five (82%) of business owners and managers contend that their operations consistently meet or exceed customer expectations.

That figure is in stark contrast to the 44% of customers and clients who feel that their service expectations are met. A further 7% expressed the belief that their expectations were consistently exceeded.

Therefore, a daunting 49% of clients regularly experience unfulfilled needs, wants and expectations. Moreover, they are among the cohort of consumers, individuals and corporates who have screened and deleted those service providers as unworthy of providing the goods, services and applications that are sought.

Clearly, inflated measures of self-belief among senior ranking business team members are not contributing to, and sustaining relationships, repeat business and loyalty. Indeed, the discrepancies between customer expectations and the standards of service being delivered are contributing to the substantial measures and instances of “customer-leakage”. That is, lost opportunities for revenue, profits, competitive advantage and revenue growth.


Exacerbating the circumstances and the very real costs of this service deficiency is the fact that front-line service providers are not aligned with business owners and managers in their assessments of meeting customer expectations.

Some 69% of those frontline service providers contend that customers’ expectations are consistently being met or exceeded.

The variance in the perceptions held by senior team members and front-line people is a consequence of two key contributing factors:


Front-line service providers are sensitive to the increasing use of on-line channels by consumers – before entering premises, and while advancing the purchase process in-store.

In the latter scenario, service providers contend that they are disadvantaged by consumers having real-time access to key and determining purchase information and intelligence.

A significant majority of this sub-group strongly advocate the issuing and use of real-time applications to better service, to respond to and match tech-savvy consumers, customers and clients.


Those directly interacting with customers believe that they do not have sufficient authority, and therefore discretion, to make decisions that will address and fulfil needs, wants and demands.

Delegated power has the capacity and track-record of enhancing morale, motivation and employment tenure of those committed to a service culture.

But there is little evidence of this capacity being employed to the intermediate to long-term advantage of the company.

Trust in the integrity of team members is consistently well rewarded.


An objective assessment of the widely prevailing circumstances highlights the need for better engagement with and understanding of existing, prospective and past customers, greater delegation of authority to front-line, service providers, the provision of, and access to in-store real-time technology, development of a comprehensive, extensive and consistent service culture and the implementation and support of “stretch-goals” customer service training.

In short, a significant percentage, if not a majority of entities, big, medium, and small, in private and the public sectors will benefit substantially, and profitably, from embracing entity-wide service excellence cultural initiatives.

A measure of the urgency for review and action is the disparity between the perceptions and beliefs of consumers, senior management and front-line service providers.

The enormous gaps between the respective stakeholders are voids into which customers, revenues, profits and competitive advantage are falling. Sadly, the causes are not readily recognised, particularly by senior management and business owners.


Customers aren’t always right. But they are always the customer. They are the source of purchase decisions, revenues, and word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals.

Being in-step and in-sync with those whom you wish to serve is fundamental.

Perhaps entities and their service providers – read: every team member – need to focus less on processes and resources, and more on outcomes. When they can be collated and quantified into consumer advantages, benefits and rewards, a broader understanding will evolve. Service will be recognised and respected as a way of thinking, rather than a way of doing.


For business owners and senior managers, a reorientation from “I think we meet or exceed customer expectations” to “I know first-hand what our customers expect, experience, value and how we rate” will be a big step forward – a stretch goal, if you will – to achieving and sustaining service excellence.

An initial step would be embracing the concept and principles of “MBWA – Management by Walking About”. This is a wonderful way to become closer to customers – physically and emotionally.

Barry Urquhart

Service Excellence Keynote Speaker, Facilitator and Author

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555