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Customer service is key.

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We're often told that to delight customers, we need to under-promise and over-deliver. But consultant Wally Bock, on the Three Star Leadership Blog dismisses that shibboleth as dishonest and demotivating because it lowers the bar for your performance, and ineffective because it misconstrues the quality that people seek.

Instead, he points to three important kinds of quality you must meet, which were identified by customer satisfaction expert Noriaki Kano, professor emeritus at the Tokyo University of Science:

Basic quality: This is what customers expect but don't ask for because they assume they'll get it – such as a car having brakes that work. Mr. Bock suggests that an auto company trying to make the best brakes in the industry won't get many more customers or profit, since effective brakes are a basic for all cars.

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Performance quality: These technical features, such as fuel economy, are often asked for by customers and can differentiate your company from the others. Increased investment in fuel economy can pay off on the bottom line.

Excitement quality: It helps if you can add some features that surprise and delight customers. A built-in GPS system that gives gas station locations as well as gas prices might just be the ticket. Excitement quality drives positive word of mouth – and sales.

"Protect yourself by delivering the basics that your customers expect, but don't invest too much in them. Invest time and effort and money in delivering on performance dimensions that are meaningful to your customer. And provide little extras that delight to drive positive word of mouth," Mr. Bock concludes.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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