Client Service according to the Flower of Service

“Core and supplementary services are generally referred to as the Flower of Service and can help firms to improve their service levels and overall client satisfaction – if understood.”

Have you ever experienced any of the following when visiting a service provider? You can’t find parking, the receptionist is busy and doesn’t acknowledge you, staff are unfriendly, the waiting area is “cold” and uncomfortable, the person you are meeting is late, the meeting area is untidy, feedback is slow or non-existent, the invoice is vague and you don’t really know what you are paying for? If you answered yes to any of these, you have first-hand experience of a concept generally referred to in professional services as the Flower of Service.

All professional service providers seek to provide a comprehensive and unique experience for their client, whether existing or potential, with the primary goal of cementing customer loyalty and encouraging future purchases. In most cases, we can easily identify the core aspects of the service (e.g. legal advice, financial advice or accounting services). Core services are the central component that supplies the principal, problem-solving benefits customers seek. The core services you provide are, however, the bare minimum a client expects of you to deliver. These core services are supported (and affected), by a range of supplementary services (e.g. your hospitality, consultation or invoicing). Supplementary services augment the core service offering, by facilitating its use and enhancing its value and appeal. It is very often these supplementary services that make or break the experience clients have with a firm to differentiate them (or not).

Core and supplementary services are generally referred to as the Flower of Service and can help firms to improve their service levels and overall client satisfaction – if understood. Client service therefore not only relates to the core services, but also the supplementary services and we find that satisfaction with both core and supplementary services is important for loyal customers. First-time clients often tend to focus mostly on core service satisfaction when evaluating service levels, whereas repeat buyers and more loyal clients focus much more on the supplementary services. The bottom line is that firms should focus on their clients’ full experience. Let us look at two types of supplementary services and how they add value to the core service offering:

Supplementary services that facilitate service delivery:
Facilitating supplementary services are the services that are needed for service delivery. They are:

  • Information: Information provides the client with peace of mind, as well as guidance and understanding of pricing, conditions of sales, usage, etc. Without information, clients are very often left unsure.
  • Invoicing: Clients want to be clear on what they are paying for, when they have to pay and how to pay. An invoice needs to be on-time, accurate and clear.
  • Feedback: Clients want feedback on the progress, status of their transaction, enquiry or problem. Slow or no feedback often causes the most frustration amongst clients.

Supplementary services that enhancing service delivery:
Enhancing services does exactly that – it enhances the value and appeal of the firm and its services. Enhancing services include:

  • Consultation: Clients want customised advice and personal counselling. They “buy” your knowledge and expertise.
  • Hospitality: Includes making clients feel welcome, offering refreshments, clean toilets and comfortable waiting areas.
  • Empathy: Refers to good communication, customer understanding and easy accessibility – Empathy reflects your ability and willingness to listen to a client’s needs and relate to their problem, needs or frustrations.
  • Courtesy: Refers to consistent friendliness and professionality of staff – whether in person, telephonically or via email.
  • Availability: You should be accessible via telephone or email to give feedback, information or advice.
  • Tangibles and appearances: Refers to the appearance and physical elements of your business, e.g. availability of parking, reception or waiting areas, consultation or meeting areas, marketing material (e.g. business cards, brochures).
  • Reliability: Refers to dependable and accurate performance, like getting back to clients and doing what you say you will do. Reliability is a key part of a trust relationship.
  • Safekeeping: Safekeeping relates to keeping clients’ records safe, private and confidential. If you are unable to do this, clients will completely loose trust in you and your staff.

A firm can therefore create a significant competitive advantage by focusing on the service quality of their supporting services and by adding value to the core service. Just make sure you do it better than the competition.

For more information contact Tobie vd Merwe at tobie@succeedgroup.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.