Process Magic is at work when an organization – large or small – creates a standard operating procedure that seems just the right thing to do.
Practices, policies, and procedures from initial contact to problem solving that amaze the customer with seeming ease are magical. The service magician who implements those practices with style and grace enhances the experience yet again.
Researchers repeatedly confirm that customers use “consistently good” as their gold standard for service. The customer’s sense of reliability, security, and comfort hang on service promises – real or implied – being kept with a high degree of precision and consistency. That “steadfastness” is so important that most organizations take care that their processes come with rigid standards and stern rules.
Those processes fall into one of two categories: algorithmic or heuristic.
Algorithms are step-by-step processes. Think of them as “rules of law” that focus on precision, replication, exactness, and dependability. There are “Red Rule” algorithms, designed to maximize effectiveness, safety, and predictable outcome. There are also “Blue Rule” algorithms, designed to maximize efficiency and sameness.
Heuristics are “rules of thumb” for doing work. They function more as guidelines for behavior rather than step-by-step specifics. Implicit in the guidance of heuristics is an in-context judgment call.
Using a Little Magic on Blue Rule Algorithms
Algorithmic processes are precise, lockstep means of getting the service the customer expects from the service provider to the customer. Helpful rules for adding magic to “Blue Rule” algorithms include:
- Select a process the customer must endure and enrich it with a little magic. While some processes are crafted exclusively for the convenience of the service provider, make sure they are as customer friendly as possible by zeroing in on the feature most important to the customer.
- Don’t alter a part of the process without examining the whole experience. If only a part of the process is enhanced, a bland or negative part left unimproved can erase or negate the enchanting memory for the customer.
- Include props to reinforce consistency. These could include reminders, checklists, job aids, guides, cueing devices – whatever helps the service magician remain disciplined and focused.
Turning Red Rule Algorithms into Magical Memories
The more challenging arena of service processes is the unalterable algorithmic process. The service magician, unable to alter Red Rule processes, must find ways that will yield a magical experience for customers. Helpful rules for altering Red Rule processes include:
- Alterations must be delivered in matched tones. By definition, the process can’t be changed, so alterations must be made with the experiences that surround the process. Any surrounding experience must be kept in the same tone, style, and manner of the process itself.
- Alterations must be subtle. The key is to not tamper with anything that causes the customer to question the core values embedded in the process.
- The magic can operate alongside the process without upsetting requirements. The “add-on” will be surprising and memorable, but it doesn’t have to interfere with the step-by-step nature of the process.
- Value adds should be of the same nature as the core offering. Adding value works best when understated and cut from the same cloth as the core offering.
Adding Magic to Heuristic Rules of Thumb
“Rule of thumb” – or heuristic – processes are not lockstep, exact, or precise. They may be guidelines born of the folklore of an industry or conventional wisdom learned only through experience. Several universal principles are important to keep in mind before tinkering with heuristic processes. They include:
- Never tinker with the customer’s core expectation. The customer has very real expectations as well as a mental picture. If the magic attempted is too extreme, the customer will remember it as disruptive and artificial
- Make sure the alteration in the process fits. Service magic enchants because it is unexpected and positive, yet it needs to be appropriate to the context and the relationship.
- Ensure the alteration is a team effort, not an isolated gesture. The customer knows single-relationship magic when he sees it and knows it is vulnerable to turnover. It does not ensure long-term loyalty
Service processes are not naturally magic. Magic occurs when the process is transformed or contains an unanticipated dimension – the more “sparkly” the transformation, the more magical it is. Magic depends on identifying a process alteration that will be permissible by the customer, and then crafting its expression into a form unexpected by the customer.
Select the right process, alter or enhance it in the right way, and you can turn dull into delightful and mundane into magic.
You are practicing Process Magic by filling the space between “customer need” and “customer need met” with experiences of awe and memories of amazement. Magical processes are the policies, procedures, and routines that make transacting business with an organization easy, positive, and memorable.
Remember, that as a church leader you have “customers” – they are the Guests who come to your place every weekend.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to utilize magical processes in your organization!
Adapted from Service Magic by Ron Zemke and Chip Bell
Part of an ongoing, periodic series exploring the translation of customer service in the corporate world to Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld