- The employees in charge of providing service and the operational environment are the primary factors that make it difficult to maintain the same level of service.
- Given that it is challenging to meet everyone’s expectations with the service, it is advisable to understand the customers’ needs and preferences in advance.
- Services that depend on human interaction should have a well-defined incentive system in place.
A food catering business operates within two main areas, namely the front-end and back-end, which serve as the lifeblood of such service providers, following the “mess service” business structure.
In short, the front-end refers to the on-site self-service dining area provided to customers, while the back-end encompasses the operational aspect of food preparation.
We assisted a food catering business in integrating the front-end and back-end business structure into its operational processes. As a result, they achieved a remarkable growth of 300 times within a transformative period of just 10 months.
We have shared various strategies and ideas about enhancing the back-end operations for the food catering service, such as expanding the supply chain and improving food quality. For those who are interested, you can read more about the case study here:
- Quality: The Make or Break for Business Survival
- Scaling Up, Service Down? Mastering the Key Success for Quality Assurance!
Moreover, we would like to share how we aided this company in addressing customer expectations for service quality during the front-end operations.
Service: An Intangible Experience
The reason why maintaining consistent high service quality is challenging is because service itself is an execution process that combines technology, emotions, convenience, and even involves the transfer of intangible assets/value.
The process of transfer must occur at a specific moment in time, involving both the service provider (whether human or machine) and the recipient of the service (who is not a machine) simultaneously in order to be completed.
For instance, the food caterer is not able to cook a substantial amount of food to cater to guests when there are no customers present because there are simply no guests to be served.
Similar to a movie theater, the audience can only truly experience the service of watching a film by physically going to the theater, sitting down, and immersing oneself in the cinematic experience provided.
Considering this, in order to truly gauge the service quality of a company, it is imperative to provide the service precisely when each individual customer is present. This approach ensures that the service is delivered in a manner that is meaningful and relevant to the customer’s experience.
How can we consistently deliver excellent human-based services every time?
However, achieving excellence once is relatively easy, but maintaining excellent service consistently every single time becomes a significant challenge. One of the main key factors for this company to scale is to overcome the variability in service quality that arises from individual differences.
Based on past experience, we are well aware that achieving consistency in service quality presents several challenges. Here are three key factors to consider:
1. Service personnel find it challenging to maintain consistency, both physically and mentally.
We believe that anyone who has experience in hiring employees or leading teams is well aware that people are the most significant challenge.
2. Service personnel have different perceptions and expectations regarding the nature of “service.”
Based on our past experience in consulting various organizations, we frequently encounter employers expressing frustration about their employees’ difficulty in understanding their instructions. They wonder why their employees struggle to grasp the information even after thorough explanation.
Even if employees claim to have understood the instructions given by their employer, carrying out those instructions can be an entirely different matter.
3. The environmental conditions of the service are not consistent, thereby affecting service quality due to variations in execution conditions.
This company is holding buffet events in other people’s homes or rented event halls, which is a characteristic (weakness) of the food catering industry, so more efforts must be made to ensure consistency in service quality.
What did we do?
Solution: Set up failure compensation system
In response to the industry characteristics of food catering businesses, we propose establishing an effective service failure compensation system to manage customer expectations. This system includes a standardized customer complaint procedure, refund policy, and service quality guidelines.
In the service industry, customers may have a wide range of requirements, and each customer has their own definition and expectation of “service.” Therefore, to effectively manage the quality of customer experience, it is essential to standardize customers’ expectations of “service” first.
As an example, the company has written a “Customer Guideline” to ensure convenience in using their services. They have made efforts to make their service facilities transparent and gain customer trust. For instance, they have an open kitchen designed like a small-scale factory, allowing customers to visit at any time.
Furthermore, they have implemented strict employee screening processes. They provide standard operating procedures (SOP), manuals, and other resources with clearer guidelines. This helps to minimize instances where employees may act inappropriately or deviate from the defined “service quality.”
By implementing a positive incentive system, all employees are eligible for rewards based on their diligence, greatly enhancing employee satisfaction.
The ultimate goal is that satisfied employees are more likely to provide satisfactory service to customers.
Solution: The Reward System is essential
That’s how this company achieved an astounding 300-times growth in just 10 months by diligently executing their well-designed and standardized work processes and practices.
According to the company’s spokesperson, they did not expect such a tremendous level of growth initially. However, during the course of their operations, many satisfied customers enthusiastically recommended their services to others, which played a significant role in their remarkable achievement.
We have assisted numerous businesses over the years, and in doing so, we have noticed a prevalent concept among many small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), which believe that employees should perform well based solely on their salary and occasional bonuses, with no other incentive systems in place.
In such a scenario, when employees adhere to a standard nine-to-five work schedule for a prolonged period, their enthusiasm diminishes, leading to a drop in the quality of work. How can an employee lacking passion deliver impeccable service to your customers or contribute to increased productivity?
Undoubtedly, not every service provider is required to deliver a 5-star service. However, customers have certain expectations based on the price range they are paying. If these expectations are not met, it is understandable that customers may choose not to return and would prefer to spend their money elsewhere.
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