What is our biggest challenge when we map our customer journeys?

Customer Journey

The short answer to that is that we are deeply biased. Despite all our good intentions about delivering superb customer service, we time and again end up seeing the situations from our own point of view. And using that point of view, we make assumptions about what we think the customer is experiencing. But unless we actually walk in their shoes, we have no clue what they are experiencing.

I see this time and again when I give workshops that introduce Service Design to groups of service providers. In order for them to really understand what this is about, I let them try it for real. So we pretend that they are a group of city tourism planners that need to improve the tourism experience in our city. In order to do that, I let them choose a persona situation and set up their hypothesis (or assumption) for this experience.

One team of three said that navigating the Copenhagen subway is very hard if you don’t speak Danish. Another team of three had the assumption that tourists easily pick the wrong kind of restaurants and end up in the tourist traps. And other groups pick other similar situations that they felt had some problems seen from a tourist point of view. So we sent them out for a 3-hourr field study. Armed with just their iPhones, we asked them to bring back proof in the form of pictures or recorded testimonials that confirmed their basic assumption (so that we could start working on ideas for improvements).

So what happened?

None of the teams could prove their assumption to be correct, none. What they thought a tourist experience was like (here in their own home city) was nowhere near what the tourists said they experienced.

So then I had to ask them: So how many of the assumptions that you have made about how your customer experience your service do you think are accurate?

Food for thought: How can we test our own assumptions about our own service product?

The same way as we did with the tourists. We get out of the office and we observe, document and collect lots of testimonials in the actual situations (not post-experience 6-page surveys, please). With that raw data, we can now start truly talking about what we need to do to improve our various touchpoints.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to do that ground work, your next best solution is to ask a group of students (Anthropologists or service designers) and have them do the real-time observations for you.

Map out the guest journey. Record your assumptions at the critical touch points: “Our breakfast is the best in town.” or “Our meeting facilities are perfect.”; “Guests think our coffee shop has the perfect selection.” Now ask the researchers to prove you right if they can.

Don’t forget: Assumption is the mother of all f… ups.

This blog post is part of a series of answers to frequent questions that I get around the concept of the Service Profit Chain. In future’s posts, we will continue to explore other key points. If you would like the full concept served up in one go, you will find Mike’s book “Best! No need to be cheap if…HERE.

What is the difference between service levels and service standards?

Service levels and standards

A key part of implementing the Service Profit Chain’s thinking is to work on consistency; in order to do that, we need to have a clear understanding of what the difference is between service levels and service standards.

The easiest way to understand this is to look at a few examples.

Many independent restaurants have high levels of service. But they may not have high standards. On the other hand, McDonald’s has a relatively low level of service, but has very high service standards, while Ritz-Carlton hotels have both high levels of service and high standards of services. And the greasy spoon down the road has neither service levels nor high standards.


Service Levels.001

Standards are all about consistency. We do things in a certain way, always. Levels of service are all about how much time and effort you put into the delivery process.

Many independent restaurants and other small service businesses go out of business because they lack service standards. Their delivery is inconsistent and creates confusion in the marketplace.

Our level of service needs to fit with our overall value proposition. How much service does this customer segment need and are they willing to pay for it?

Understanding this is crucial to building loyalty.

This blog post is part of a series of answers to frequent questions that I get around the concept of the Service Profit Chain. In future’s posts, we will continue to explore other key points. If you would like the full concept served up in one go, you will find Mike’s book “Best! No need to be cheap if…HERE.

If it is all about loyalty, does satisfaction matter?


It is true that in the Service Profit Chain framework, there is a huge emphasis on establishing loyalty; loyalty is the key driver of profit and growth.

Before we can even hope to establish a relationship that will lead to loyalty, we must ensure that we have a firm grip on the basics and that we can deliver on our promise every time. The keyword here is consistency, the key driver of basic satisfaction.

Consistency or lack of consistency is also one of my pet grievances. Consistency is the flip side of reliability. If as a customer I had a great experience last week, you as a service provider have implicitly promised me that I will have the same experience when I return next week.

If not, you are not only unreliable in my eyes, but you are also performing below my expectations, and we all know that meeting expectations is the first key to customer satisfaction.

This is a balancing act because, on the one hand, we would like to see creativity and initiative on the part of our teams, but on the other hand, we need to deliver a product that is as expected.

The name of the game is to generate repeat business. Customers return to get more of what they enjoyed the first time. If they don’t get that, then they could just as well have gone somewhere else.

Just think back for a moment about how many times in your life you had a great experience somewhere, and then went back only to find that what you had last time was not what you got the next time. Did you go back a third time just to make sure?

Probably not.

Where do you go frequently? Most probably to a place that is very consistent in some aspect of their service delivery that is important to you. That consistency is what brings you back.

Requiring consistency in the delivery process is universal across all types of services. It is the foundation of your success, and that applies to all service businesses, the way your insurance company processes your claim, the way the consultant interacts with you, how your auditing firm performs the audit. You return to the same supplier in all of these situations because you liked the way he or she did the work.

Together with emotions, consistency is an important element in our ability to recall one service experience more easily than others. You remember the consistently good experiences. They stand out. You have a much harder time remembering inconsistent experiences because you easily confuse them with all of the other inconsistent experiences that you have had.

Customers come back to experiences that consistently live up to their expectations. When that happens, we call it loyalty. Loyalty is built on consistency. Never forget that.

So take a good hard look at your basic processes, are they consistent?

This blog post is part of a series of answers to frequent questions that I get around the concept of the Service Profit Chain. In future’s posts, we will continue to explore other key points. If you would like the full concept served up in one go, you will find Mike’s book “Best! No need to be cheap if…HERE.

How is customer value created? And who does it?


In a previous question, we looked at what value is to a customer, how they calculate it in their mind if they received value or not. In this post, we will look at how and by whom is the value then created?

If we go back to the basic definition of service, then we know that Service = Result – Experience.

The experience part is relatively straightforward. We need to provide a good experience at all the touch points and most reasonably successful service organisations understand that.

We can get back to how to do this in a future post. But what truly separates the great from the good is their understating of the result bit.

If I walk in to a store to purchase a hammer of a certain size and make, and I leave the store with exactly that hammer then it is relatively easy. My primary result was to purchase a hammer and that is what I did.

But what is the result that I am looking for when I have a two hour layover in an airport? Or what is the result that I am looking for when I as the CEO organises an offsite meeting for my top ten managers at a conference center? What is the result I am looking for when I check in to a hotel?

The mediocre service providers assume that it is the primary product that is the result. The bed to sleep in. A conference room with a projector etc. But that is not the point. The hotel bed is the solution to a need, and the need may be a good night sleep. The conference room is the solution to a need that could be about undisturbed workspace with no distractions.

When I say ‘could be’, it is because we can’t be sure. Most of these service needs are highly subjective and individual.

So we have two choices. We can give everybody the standard solution and hope that it covers some or most of their needs. Or we can take pride in discovering what the real result is that they are looking for and deliver a customised solution.

When I explain this during my Service Profit Chain seminars, I often hear grows of protest at this idea: “But we don’t know. How on earth should we know what the need behind a conference room booking is other than they obviously want a conference room? We have hundreds of guests each day, how are we to understand what each and everyone’s different needs are. How are we going to do that?”

It quite simple: Ask!

Initiate a conversation that tries to explore and uncover what the need is behind the request for a product. Just like your doctor does. You don’t go to your doctor and say hey could you give me a box of the blue pills, they were wonderful last time. No, your doctor will investigate, and question and use his intuition and experience in order to determine what he thinks is the real need. Once that is identified, he prescribes the best product to solve the need.

That is exactly what our best service providers do as well. What makes them outstanding at their craft is that they investigate, question and use their experience and intuition in order to understand what the real need is. Once they understand that, then they use their professional expertise and knowledge of their product to propose the best possible solution to exactly that need. And funnily enough, that always creates an exceptionally happy customer. Go figure.

If it is a complex service delivery then it requires a lot of time and effort. If it is a simple service delivery, it’s easier to do. Here is a simple example:
Two people come into our restaurant and ask for a table for two. Seated, we give them the menu and let them know we will be back shortly. We come back. They order. Food arrives. They eat, pay and bye bye. Standard solution, that was the product the client asked for. they were not unhappy you could claim.

Let’s rewind.

Two people come into our restaurant and ask for a table for two. Seated, we give them the menu and ask so have you been here before? Their answer will give us valuable information about what’s next to say (Do they need help in understanding our restaurant concept / menu or do they know it well and need help to learn about new initiatives specials etc.?)

Then, we ask casually: So you look really happy tonight are you celebrating something? With a bit of luck, we get some really valuable information back:
a) Oh no we just escaped from the kids and we are off to a movie (Meaning they are on a limited timeframe and we need to adapt to that.)
b) Yes we are actually. It’s my wife’s birthday today. (Meaning they are here for the evening and they would like it to be special somehow. Just sticking a flare in their dessert is already a much better experience than the standard solution we started with if you get my point.)

A skilled service provider will ensure that they not only have the evening they dreamed of but they will probably also spend more than they would have if we had not had this opportunity to really understand their need. The better we understand the more values we create.

And that brings me to favourite peeve. I am not mad about the expression ‘Up-sell’. It sounds like we are force feeding them more than they need. But I do encourage the service sale, which is the sale you make once you have understood that here is a deeper need than what was originally voiced by the customer. By letting them spend more on achieving their real need, you are giving them fantastic service.

So how is value created? By uncovering the true need: Understanding what is the real result they are looking for and then customising your delivery to fulfill that need in the best possible way.

This blog post is part of a series of answers to frequent questions that I get around the concept of the Service Profit Chain. In future post, we will continue to explore other key points. If you would like the full concept served up in one go, you will find Mike’s book “Best! No need to be cheap if…HERE.

Employee experiences and why you need to focus on consequences

Last week, we looked at how progressive organisations are focusing on managing their employee experience as way to ensure the best possible customer experience. From a Service Profit Chain‘s point of view, this makes perfect sense.

We can create super sophisticated employee career journey maps – but we could also just look at what a day looks like on our team from an employee experience point of view. What are the emotional highs and lows in a day? So we looked at how managing positive ending has a huge influence on how the whole day is perceived.

This week, I would like to look at why managing the end of the day is just as or maybe even more important than managing the start of the day from a motivational point of view.

A reasonably accepted definition of motivation is:

“A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way”

So that reason, we call it the activator, for doing or not doing something can come from two main sources. It can be external; somebody does something to make you act (A request, a threat, a reward etc.). Or the activation comes from within yourself; you feel an inner urge to do something.

In either case, you end up doing whatever it is. That is the behaviour part. And all behaviour has a consequence. So there is this sequence: Activator – behaviour – consequence in everything we do.

In simple terms: You feel a craving for sweets. That activates you to get up and go to the cupboard and find a bar of chocolate. The consequence is that you feel good – your sugar craving is satisfied. (And, maybe you learn that eating chocolate is a solution for killing a sweet tooth.)

So now just pause for a minute.

What do you think has the largest influence on your behaviour on a day to day basis? The activator or the consequence?

If you are like most of the people I have in my workshops, you will say the Activator – We tend to think that we do things because there is a push. But that is not entirely correct.

80% of what we do or don’t do is determined by what we think the consequences are going to be. The drive is the consequence – that triggers the activator.

Ah, but that is not true, you may be thinking because I know that the consequences of eating chocolate is that I will get fat. So why do I still do it? Because we are all wired to value short-term consequences higher than long-term consequences. On top of that, we will value consequences that are certain, more than consequences that are a possibility in the future.

At 2 o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Eve – someone suggests that we crack open a bottle of Jack Daniels. The short-term well known consequence is that it is going to feel great. The long-term possible consequence is that we are going to feel terrible tomorrow.

That is also why it is hard to get people to stop smoking. The immediate 100% certain consequence is that they will feel a kick from the nicotine, the long term possible consequence is that it may kill them.

So back to managing our daily employee experience.

What do you think has the largest influence on our motivation to go to work? How the day starts (activation) or how the day ends (consequences)?

It’s a no brainer.

If we want our team to come in tomorrow, energised and ready to rock and roll, we need to think about how we manage the ending today. What was the consequence of their efforts today?

How are they going to feel when they go home: Elated, confident, positive? Or downcast, self blaming, frustrated and angry? Whatever it is, it is going to be our starting point tomorrow.

So how do we do a better job of managing our endings?

That is the subject of my upcoming webinar Manager’s Toolbox #1 – you can join us and participate with your questions on comments live. Check it out here.

Manager's Toolbox Training1


This is the 12th article in a series on how to lead as a first time manger. If you would like to know more, check out other articles of the first time manager series:

  1. How are you supporting your first time managers?
  2. The big leap… from team member to team leader
  3. First time manager – The challenges
  4. Direction, Alignment & Commitment in 4 easy steps
  5. How your relations affect your results
  6. Powerful or powerless, what do you prefer?
  7. Behaviour
  8. Conversations, not small talk
  9. Take charge of your energy levels!
  10. You won’t get results by pussyfooting around the issues!
  11. What drives a fabulous employee experience?

Are you the chief employee experience officer?


Focusing on the customer experience is the key to high customer loyalty – it’s well established.

That is also why around 70% of medium to large UK companies have a customer experience manager at the level of VP or equivalent. The current buzz-tool for developing these customer experiences is ‘service design thinking’.

So far so good.

But if you’re familiar with the service profit chain, you also know that the key to an exceptional customer experience starts somewhere else. We need to create what we call ‘internal quality’ – more popularly referred to as ‘a dream team cycle’.

So what would happen if we were to turn all this service design thinking on its head and focus more on the employee experience? When did we last sit down to analyse the employee journey as it unfolds throughout the day?

Do we know what the critical touch points are? Have we done some emotional mapping that could help us understand what the possible frustrations are during a day?

What are the learning opportunities? Does this job have varying challenges, or is it just the same thing day in, day out?

This idea came to me as I read Global Human Capital Trends 2016, published by Deloitte University Press. According to this latest survey, 92% of executives listed organisational design as very important and something they will be focusing on this year.

So designing our service organisations from the employee perspective should receive the same kind of attention and resources as we use when looking at the customer experience. Yes?

This leaves the question of who the chief employee experience officer is going to be in your organisation. Will they be part of HR, or will your organisation create a totally separate role?

I would love to hear your views on this, so please feel free to reply to this mail.