What is a Service Promise & Why is it so Important?
Updated for 2023
An awesome customer experience starts with an awesome service promise. But what exactly is a service promise, and why is everyone talking about it?
If you and your team aren’t clear on what your service promise is — or worse yet, you don’t have one — you’re doing a huge disservice to your customers, employees, and ultimately the overall health of your company.
So, if you’re determined to differentiate your brand through superior customer experiences, and you’re looking for clarity on yet another popular CX buzzword, you’re in the right place.
First things first…
What is a Service Promise?
Not to be confused with a brand promise, a Service Promise is a set of tangible guidelines that help to define a) what a customer can expect from interactions with your business, and b) how that experience should be delivered by the frontline. It’s a repeatable series of small actions that create raving fans.
“You could almost think of the service promise as a vision or mission statement focused exclusively on the experience and how this is delivered.” — Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP.
Let’s Take a Look at Some Service Promise Examples
AA Home Response
AA Home Response is an emergency subscription service for your home. For the times you’re faced with a burst pipe, buzzing switchboard or you’ve locked yourself out, a trusted AA tradesperson comes to save the day.
AA’s service promise is all about speed and access. They guarantee that they will find someone for the job within the hour. They also promise accessibility, with 24/7, 365 day access to their staff. Speed and access are what the AA are known for, and what sets them apart from their competitors. Their frontline team are coached on this promise, to deliver on point experiences every time, in every location.
Zoom+Care operates over 50 urgent care medical centers across Oregon and Washington with a mission to reduce the waste of traditional healthcare and to keep people healthier, happier, sexier and more creative. Zoom+Care promises “twice the health, at half the price, with ten times the delight,” and they back this up with 10 service standards, which are printed on the wall of every clinic (you can’t miss it). It’s a unique, holistic experience that starts with a mobile app for booking appointments, and includes an online chat with doctors and a “Perfect Visit” experience that ensures appointments are always on time.
Humes NZ, New Zealand’s leading pipeline systems supplier. Their service promise includes 7 guidelines that they have come to be known for.
- Accuracy in everything we do: Order recording, pricing, invoicing, tenders - mistakes are frustrating, time consuming and cost money to fix so we promise to get it right first time, every time.
- Delivery when we promise: Late, incomplete or incorrect deliveries cost you money so we promise deliveries in full, on time, as ordered and to give you timely delivery updates.
- Tenders that help you win: We promise tenders that are on time and easy to follow plus we'll suggest alternative solutions that will enable you to achieve better outcomes.
- Specified core items always in stock: These are the items you've told us you depend on most.
- Our smile comes free: We love what we do - we hope it shows.
- It's the putting right that counts: We've been working with customers like you for over 90 years and our reputation matters. If anything goes wrong with our service or the products we supply, we promise to put things right. Fast.
- Technical support whenever you want it: We know our stuff. We'll solve your problem on the spot or keep you informed as we work tirelessly to source the answers you need. Our conversation will never end with "I don't know". That's a promise.
The Proof - Why Are Service Promises So Important?
Imagine how your marketing or product team would feel if they didn’t know what the company mission was. Pretty lost? Well, that’s exactly how your frontline team feels without a service promise.
A service promise sets the standard for frontline employees, and guides them to deliver on the things that matter most to their customers. It also —
- Provides employees with a benchmark of success.
- Allows employees to work towards specific goals and targets related to their promise.
- Encourages a consistent level of service across all employees and locations.
- Helps to identify what behaviors should be rewarded and recognized.
A strong, accurate service promise is like a clear roadmap for your frontline team. And the evidence is clear — businesses with transparent, well-informed service standards are widely understood to deliver better customer experiences. Businesses with better customer experiences have higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced customer churn and increased revenues.
3 Key Service Promise Considerations:
Now knowing what you do about service promises, it’s likely you’ll likely want to revisit your own to make sure it’s up to scratch. Is your frontline team acutely aware of your promise? And do they have the right tools to live that service promise every day, in every location, in every interaction, and with every customer?
Here’s a few important things to consider.
- Your service promise should answer these three basic questions:
- What do your customers want?
- How are you going to deliver what they want? I.e. What are the specific actions?
- How are you going to do it better than your competition?
- For a service promise to be effective, it needs to be widely understood and believed by:
- Your customers
- Your office
- Your frontline
- Does your frontline team have the coaching and support they need to deliver on your service promise?
- Do the frontline have a benchmark for what success looks like?
- Are they receiving customer feedback?
- Are the frontline rewarded for meeting the benchmarks of your service promise?
If you can tick these boxes and answer these questions confidently, you’re on the right track.
A service promise may sound like a term for an old marketing textbook, but as many successful experience brands will tell you — it’s the first, and arguably most important step to winning on customer experience and cultivating a culture of coaching and self-improvement.
For a practical guide to creating and implementing a service promise, including the do’s, don’ts and case studies, check out the Frontline Coaching Playbook here. You’ll learn more about how to create a winning service promise, as well as six other key habits of empowered frontline teams.