I truly believe most employees don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves “I can’t wait to get to work and get a customer really angry today.”  I believe that most employees want to delight and please their customers by offering great service, but that there are times when an obstacle (no fault of theirs) gets in the way of that delivery. And that’s when you start to hear the excuses or blame game such as, “I did my part”, “the computers are down”, “it’s those folks in operations who need to get their act together”, “it must be stuck in administration”, etc.

The purpose of a Service Obstacle System (SOS) is to give employees a mechanism of where to communicate those obstacles, a methodical approach to resolving the obstacles, and a closed-loop feedback process to communicate back to the originator of the obstacle as to how it was solved.

You can design a simple or more complex SOS, you can design a paper or intranet SOS, but no matter the design, the system should contain these three components:

1. A request for help that identifies the obstacle
2. A log-in to capture, record and assign the requests
3. A status report form to keep track of what stage of resolution the obstacle is in

Let’s take a quick look at each one of these components:

1. The request for help that identifies the obstacle should ask for objective data to assist in determining how big the obstacle is, how much it impacts the customer experience, and who could possibly be involved in coming up with a resolution.

2. The log-in to capture and record all obstacles helps to ensure SOS requests don’t get lost or fall through the cracks. Each can be assigned a number and should be resolved at the lowest level. Only those obstacles that typically involve several departments or stakeholders need to be assigned out to a team of people who have the knowledge and background to come up with a corrective action.

3. The status report is completed by the SOS team that has been put together for the purpose of identifying the root cause/s and determining a correction action/s. This team is responsible to ensure the corrective action is implemented and that there is a follow up mechanism in place to make certain the corrective action worked. If it does, then the status report can reflect that the obstacle has been resolved, what corrective action was put in place,  and send a close-out of the report back to the originator of the obstacle.

At this point, I highly recommend that a celebration of some sort takes place that shows appreciation to the individual who submitted the SOS and to the team that determined a resolution and ensured its implementation. What this communicates is that management is serious about continuous improvement and encourages employees to be more forthright in communicating the obstacles that they encounter vs. sweeping them under the rug and negatively affecting the customer experience.

When employees see that management is committed to removing the obstacles that are preventing them from delivering excellent service, it makes them feel more confident in their role of delivering WOW service.

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