Five Levels of Service: Making It to the Top

A recent project of mine involved rating and comparing companies based on their level of customer service. I began with a basic rating scale of 1-5 (with one being bad and five excellent), but then I decided to get a bit more creative. I came up with descriptive names for the levels of service.

Five Levels of Service

  1. Unacceptable – This may be a kind term for some of the more terrible examples of customer service, but it encompasses any service that is unacceptable for any reason.
  2. Basic – Minimum standards and commodity.
  3. Good – This category contains what customers would call “satisfactory” service.
  4. World Class – Taking a big jump from satisfactory, in the eyes of the customer your company is superior to others in the industry.
  5. Trademark – At the top of the game. You set the benchmarks for the industry.

You can use this rating system to perform a self-assessment of your business and your personal standing. Consider the following questions and honestly evaluate your situation. If you do not deal with outside customers, think about how you serve your internal customer.

  1. What level of service does your company provide for your customers or clients? What level of service do you personally provide?
  2. In terms of the descriptive levels of service, how would you describe yourself?
  3. Where do other companies in your industry fall in the levels of customer service?
  4. What about companies outside your industry? Assign them to the levels of service.
  5. Consider the companies that you have assigned to the “World Class” and “Trademark” levels (inside and outside your industry). What qualities do they have that you could emulate?
  6. If you are not at the “Trademark” level (and very few are), what steps can you take to move closer to the top? What would you have to do to get all the way there?

Use these questions as a springboard for discussion and goal setting. Remember the following points:

The quest for great service never ends. Even after reaching the “Trademark” level, it is an ongoing process you should always be striving to improve.

The basic tenet of customer service lies in common sense. Though some take a scientific approach with measurements, testing, etc., it boils down to people taking care of people.

Never stop reaching, no matter how high you rate in the “Five Levels of Service.” Continuous training and coaching is needed in the journey to “Trademark” service and beyond.

And one final thought …

“Great service is not the end – the final answer. It is a process that is ongoing, ever changing and is always being adapted to meet the needs of the current situation.”

– Shep Hyken

The Real Crisis and 8 Ways to Beat It

The Real Crisis and 8 Ways to Beat It

You’ve heard we are in the midst of a financial crisis.  That much is obvious.  But, did you know our financial woes pale in comparison to the crisis of trust we have on our hands?  That’s right.  Our most significant crisis revolves around a lack of trust.  When even leaders of the World Economic Forum agree that our biggest crisis is a lack of trust and confidence, you know it must be serious. Sadly, few people really understand the bottom line implications. Not only does it affect credit and government relations, it affects every relationship and every organization. Professor John Whitney of the Columbia Business School found, “Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.” I think it costs even more. Trust is not just a “soft skill,” it is the fundamental key to all lasting success.

trustedgeWithout trust, leaders lose teams and sales people lose sales. We all lose productivity, retention of good people, reputation, morale and revenue. The lower the trust the more time everything takes, the more everything costs, and the lower the loyalty of everyone involved. However, with greater trust come greater innovation, creativity, impact, freedom, morale, and a bigger bottom line.

All of my Graduate research points to the fact that trust is the unique commonality of the most successful leaders and organizations. Obtaining this level of trust isn’t easy. If you are looking for a quick fix, don’t look to trust. While it may appear to be static, in reality it is more like a forest—a long time growing, but easily burned down with a touch of carelessness. Trust is by nature solid and proven. Without trust no lasting, genuine success exists–just a brittle, fluffy, mirage of the real thing. The good news is that we can build this fundamental key to success. It is worth it! And it is the ONLY way to genuine relational or organizational success. The Trust Edge is the competitive advantage gained by being trusted whether as a mom or dad, a community leader or a consultant, or a business owner or government leader. Following is a synopsis of the eight pillars that build the Trust Edge.

1. Consistency: It’s the little things, done consistently, that make the big difference. In every area of life it is the little things. If I am over weight it is because I have eaten too many calories over time, not because I ate too much yesterday. If I am a good husband I am doing the little things that honor my wife on a daily basis. It is the same in business. The little things done consistently make for leaders being followed, increased sales and retention, and a higher level of trust. Consistency is the way brands are built and character is revealed. Even if we don’t like McDonald’s, we trust them because they deliver the same burger in Cleveland as in Tokyo. Do the little things, consistently.

2. Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When people are clear about the mission they do the little things differently. A clear mission unifies and inspires. When a manager is clear in expectations, she will likely get what she wants. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis we become productive and effective.

3. Compassion: Think beyond yourself. Never underestimate the power of sincerely caring. It is the reason we trust our mothers over some sales people. We are skeptical if the sales person really has our best interest in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying, it is a bottom line truth. If followed it builds trust.

4. Character: Do what is right over what is easy. Leaders who built this trust consistently did what needed to be done when it needed to be done whether they felt like doing it or not. It is the work of life to do what is right over what is easy.

5. Contribution: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. Be a contributor who delivers real results!

6. Competency: Staying fresh, relevant and capable builds trust. The humble teachable person keeps learning new and better ways of doing things. They stay current on ideas and trends. According to one study the key competency of new MBA’s is not a specific skill, but rather the ability to learn amidst chaos. Arrogance and a “been-there-done-that” attitude keep people from growing. There is always more to learn, so make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information.

7. Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends. People become friends when they build connection. Ask questions. Listen. Life, work, and trust are about relationships. All relationships are best built by establishing genuine connection.

8. Commitment: Stick with it through adversity.  Followers trusted General Patton, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Jesus, and George Washington, because they saw commitment. They saw sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment reveals and it builds trust.

Trust does not start with the economy or government. The good news is that YOU can build these pillars and enjoy greater relationships, revenue and results. It starts with individuals becoming trusted. When will we get out of this trust crisis? When we as individuals decide to build the Trust Edge on a daily basis. Keep on being trusted.

Our guest author for this post is David Horsager, MA, CSP, is an award-winning speaker, author, producer, and business strategist who has researched and spoken on the bottom-line impact of trust across four continents. His brand new book titled, The Trust Edge: What Top Leaders Have & 8 Pillars to Build It gives the framework for building trust at work or at home. Get free resources and more at and

No Tech Speak! Are you Listening?

No Tech Speak! Are you Listening?

Learning how to become buyer-centric is not that difficult when you are a buyer yourself.  How many times as a buyer or customer have your found yourself frustrated when a product or service isn’t working the way you would like?

I recently vented my frustration with Norton Antivirus on Twitter when I had trouble turning off those pesky pop-up notifications.  The pop-up notices are especially annoying when you are hosting a webinar.  Not only do they distract during the live event, they will show up in the recorded version and play havoc with the viewer experience.

I tried searching “turn off pop-up” in Norton’s search field on their support page.  “0” results!  Turns out I should have been searching “turn off cookie trace”.  Who knew?  Are you using the language of your customer or are you relying on techies to create the ultimate support portal? Turns out Norton was listening.  That is refreshing!  Are you tuned in to social media to find out what your customer’s frustrations are, and better yet, are you responding?

Norton's Response

A little more about China and a 90% passing rate

It was very exciting to see the results of SMEI’s Train-the-Trainer program in Beijing.  Gerard Edwards, CME, CSE and Gerald White, CSE traveled to P.R. China to conduct training programs for the CSE® and SCPS programs in October.

Each of the course attendees were carefully screened for educational background and work experience and upon passing the final certification exam are qualified to teach the applicable preparation courses in China.

With over a 90% passing rate, the results speak to the selection process, quality of the training programs and the aptitude of the applicants for the subject.

This bodes well for the partnership in China and we’re looking forward to the future as this opens the door for the mainstream preparation courses soon to be underway.

Welcome to our Certification Blog!

Welcome!  I’ve been encouraged by many leaders to embrace the world of blogging, and this is going to be the first effort to create a community for members of the sales and marketing community to gather and share ideas about the profession.  We will dialogue about benchmarking, ethics, competencies and many other topics that are related to professionalism in our chosen area.

I’m looking forward to your feedback in the form of comments as we build this community.  This blog will be built by several leading authors who have become or are becoming authorities in the area of certification with emphasis on sales and marketing.

Now more than ever, companies and individuals are looking to credible third party organizations to validate their level of competency in a given field.  Certification validates individual credentials. 

Creating this blog will help to bring professional certification in sales and marketing into the public domain.  For over 20 years, SMEI has developed some of the world’s most credible certification programs.  We’re excited to see that in the past year, the diligence of SMEI’s leaders has born fruit in the form of exponential growth in the number of newly certified members around the world.