What matters more? What you do, or how they feel?

“See the world from your customers’ point of view” is a catchy and familiar phrase, but not always easy to accomplish. The world view of any other person is influenced by his or her past experiences, current concerns, future hopes and fears – not yours.

It may not be easy, but understanding what someone else perceives is essential to improving the service you provide. How else can you know what to do, change or do better if you can’t get an accurate view of how you are performing in your customer’s eyes right now? This means shifting your attention from what you are doing to caring about what someone else is experiencing.

Definition of Service: Service is taking action to create value for someone else.

This is not an easy task because many of your daily activities focus on getting things done, not figuring out what other people think and feel about the things you are doing. The attention you place on your own activity intensifies every time you try to track your progress:  Did I finish all my action items today, or only half of those accumulating on my checklists? Did I complete each of the steps in that process or procedure, or do I still have twenty more to go?

The inward focus gets even stronger when success is boiled down to numbers as it often is in organizations. Your managers want to know: How many new customers did we win this month? Did you meet or beat your target? What volume of new products did you sell? What profit or percentage did we earn? Even customer satisfaction is often distilled into numbers.

Surveys ask customers for ratings on a scale from 1 to 10 with results rolled up into reports that supposedly measure your performance in the eyes of your customers.

But if I ask your customers or colleagues to tell me about the quality of service you provide, very few will answer with statistics. People don’t naturally say, “I give your service a 7.2” or “The service I received was 66%.” People don’t talk about service this way. When we think and speak about service, we don’t use numbers as much as words like these: “Pretty good” “Not bad” “OK” “Getting better” or maybe “Getting worse”.

This creates a problem. If everyone uses their own language, your “Pretty good” could mean the same thing as my “Not bad”, and that’s confusing for everyone. We need a shared way of thinking and speaking about service so it’s easy to discover where you are and to decide where you want to be. We need a common service language.