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Q&A | Ron Kaufman

Either it could be relegated to clichés like “the customer is always right" or it could be the foundation on which a company is built—to differentiate on service rather than product or price. Ron Kaufman, an expert on the subject of service, would agree with the latter if one were to go by his latest book, Uplifting Service: The Proven Path To Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues And Everyone Else You Meet.

Hire right: Ron Kaufman.

In an email interview, Kaufman tells Mint about the benefits of giving more, since what goes around comes around. Edited excerpts:

The world’s moving from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy. Could you give us a perspective on this?

In a globalizing economy where consumers have greater choice and clients have more options, differentiation based on products is becoming more difficult and differentiation based on lower price is the worst place your product can be in. It is so easy for somebody else to beat you just by lowering their price. But if you can differentiate on overall service experience, you can position yourself in a stronger place.

India has for many years been a low-cost location where Western countries have outsourced their service work. But today as the economy of India and affluence in India continues to grow, there are other places in the world that are even lower priced. So Indian companies need to step up the quality of service.

Is service a cultural phenomena?

Uplifting Service-The Proven Path To Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues And Everyone Else You Meet: By Ron Kaufman, Evolve Publishing, 318 pages, $24.95 (around 1,380).

Is service limited to behaviour with the customer or does it include internal working relationships in an organization?

Service is everyone’s job and when people serve better on the inside it is easier to provide service on the outside. The more service you get from people inside the organization—HR, finance, legal, IT, administration—the better equipped you are to create great service experiences for people outside the organization, whether it’s your customer, client, guest or patient. Whether you are in the boardroom or the front line, you can lead the quality of service in your shift, in your department.

Is ‘an attitude of service’ something that the HR department should look at while hiring?

Absolutely! I think the company should hire based on great attitude and then educate, train and support people to further develop their skills. If you get somebody who is very skilful but has a bad attitude, eventually you are going to get tired of the wear and tear that the person presents to everybody else on the team.

Starting something new in an organization is one thing. Keeping the process going is another. Are there ways to maintain a service culture?

Yes. That’s what we call the “12 building blocks of service culture". I talk about it extensively in the new book, Uplifting Service. There are fundamental activities within every major organization that can be done effectively to support, stimulate and encourage the development of a strong service culture. They include recruitment, orientation, recognition and rewards, internal communication, capturing the voice of the customer, benchmarking, to name a few. These 12 building blocks of uplifting service culture will continue to support the culture even as people need to focus on other areas like pricing, production, distribution, warehousing or marketing.

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