The sign says “Shopping at Publix is always a pleasure”.  Is it possible to so boldly post a sign in each one of its grocery stores and on various billboards along the highways with such fearlessness?  Most companies I know would never want to boast such an experience to its customers being afraid that an employee would not live up to the high expectations and they would be called out.  But with 1,017 supermarkets throughout the southeast United States, Publix knows the importance of orchestrating the process of food shopping looking through the lens of their customers.  They also know the value of training employees, giving recognition when service behaviors are performed, and holding people accountable for when they don’t meet the expectations. 

Whether you are in the business of supermarkets, call centers, medical services, retail operations, all customers go through a series of actions to do business with you.  By sequentially mapping out all the points of contact, then analyzing, and brainstorming to find a way to raise the bar on the current level of service, you can create outstanding customer experiences that can be delivered consistently to your customers.

A Service Map is a tool to define the process that focuses on how to interact with the customer in a more friendly way and reinforce the lens of the customer mindset.   It is not a one-time event, but should be used on an on-going basis by every area of the business in order to continually keep improving processes.  The first step is to identify a process that you would like to improve the customer experience.   It can be a big, broad process like the “overall grocery shopping trip” or it can be more narrow “ordering from the meat deli” process.   Once you have determined the process you want to work on, choose a group of employees who work in that process and maybe one or two who don’t, who can give an outsider’s perspective.

Map out the process starting with the first point of contact the customer goes through.  It is easiest to use a flipchart and block out each step using the term “the customer….”  For example, if we were doing a Service Map for “ordering from the meat deli”, the first block might be “the customer picks a number from the red tab machine”.  The next step might be “the customer waits her turn”.  The entire process could consist of only a few blocks or it might consist of 20 or more.  My recommendation is if it consists of 15 steps or more, see if you can break it into two processes to analyze.  It might become too overwhelming otherwise.  The key is to keep this simple.

Once the employee work group has identified all the points of contact and even potential points of contact, the next step is to look at each component of the Service Map and ask the question “What would mediocre service look like at this step?”  By getting the group to identify mediocre service, they might start realizing that it is how they are currently delivering  service.  And while mediocre service is not necessarily bad service, it certainly will not give you the opportunity to build value with your customers for going beyond their expectations. 

After describing mediocre service at each touch point, the next step is to describe excellent service at each step.  Let all ideas be voiced and heard.  While in the end it may come down to where every idea may not be able to be implemented, it’s better to set the stakes high and get as close to an ideal excellent customer experience as you can.  Otherwise, what you will see as the result is little more than the current status quo. 

And lastly, the final step in Service Mapping is to review and remap the experience showing only the excellent descriptions for each step.  This becomes the way the process is done from here on out.  This is the way new hires are taught to do this process.  It may become a best practice and shared throughout all other locations or parts of the company for whenever this process is being performed.  This is what creates the consistency and a seamless experience for your customers.

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