A brand based on service excellence commands a premium (First published on The Law Society Gazette website / In Business blog)
The Claridges brand has been built over many years on a philosophy of putting the guest first and providing exceptional service.
This was exemplified by the head of housekeeping who kept detailed records, including photographic evidence, of exactly how guests liked their rooms and other aspects of their stay. This included precisely how the bed should be made – blankets or duvets, softness of mattress or pillow – even preferences for the position of furniture.
If you have not watched the programme, I would urge you to do so, as there are at least three valuable lessons to be learned for any service provider.
First, exceptional service demands attention to detail, thorough knowledge of your clients and access to this information. In helping firms to develop their CRM systems, it is rare that we come across well kept client information. Contact names are not often recorded completely or accurately, never mind information on family circumstances or business plans. What information do you need to anticipate the needs of your clients and provide exceptional service?
Second, the overall service experience is created by everyone in the team. The Claridges housekeeper is probably rarely seen by the guest, and yet she is undoubtedly worth her weight in gold. Lawyers often forget that clients may encounter many members of staff before they eventually meet their solicitor. Are all your staff aware of the standards of service expected at your firm? Are standards monitored and do staff receive training accordingly?
Third, a brand built on exceptional service commands a premium. In this case, Claridges is charging ten times that of its rivals in London and it clearly enjoys fantastic loyalty from its guests.
When Steve Jobs started opening the Apple stores in 2001, not only was the physical environment important, but so was the customer experience.
At a retreat with the team, retail chief Ron Johnson asked everyone to describe the best customer experience that they had received. Most mentioned the Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton hotel and so Johnson sent his first five store managers through the Ritz-Carlton training programme and came up with the idea of replicating that level of experience.
Too often law firms simply compare themselves with other professionals. But there is much to be learned from other industries and, as was the case with the Apple stores, a fresh perspective can give you that differentiating edge from the competition.
Once you start to compete on the basis of price alone, it can only go one way. Whilst not everyone can be Claridges or Apple, they are fine brands to emulate if your strategy is based on service excellence.