First in a four part series on The Three Rings of Perceived Value.

Customer service and continuous quality improvement have always been important. As organizations struggle to grow revenues and reduce costs in our challenging economic times, service/quality is becoming even more critical. It’s where organizations thrive, survive, or nosedive.

Service Quality - Jim ClemmerThe June 30 blog post, Our Dell Dance to the ‘Bureaucratic Boogie’ Highlights a Common Service Breakdown highlighted the breakdown of “second and third ring service.” This draws from The Three Rings of Perceived Value model we developed at The Achieve Group (now part of AchieveGlobal) and featured in my second book Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance. This blog outlines how that model developed and introduces a series of three more blogs summarizing each of The Three Rings.

It starts with the belief that service/quality is not the absence of defects as defined by management, but the presence of value as defined by customers. The Three Rings of Perceived Value uses concentric rings to show that as ever-higher levels of customer-defined support and service are added to a high quality product or service, the customer’s perception of value increases. In high service/quality organizations, all three rings are strong and growing. Perceived value is high.

We originally used The Three Rings model to show that adding value through Third Ring enhanced service was the key to increasing customer perceived value. However, as we then helped Clients apply this approach, we ran into two problems:

1) Shortcomings in the customer-perceived quality of the organization’s core product or service and the quality of the support processes often subverted attempts to enhance Third Ring service;

2) Our narrower focus on service was not harnessing the power of the techniques within the emerging Total Quality Management/Continuous Quality Improvement movement (now evolved to Lean/Six Sigma.)

In our search for incorporating “Quality” into our approaches we found as many definitions of service, quality, and TQM/CQI as there are gurus, experts, consultants, and organizations striving to make improvements. As we worked with various — sometimes conflicting –definitions, we looked for a way of finding the common ground among them. We were searching for a simple way to bring many of the service/quality improvement approaches into a common framework that allowed them to work together.

This developmental effort led to the expansion of our system to bring together service, quality, and our lengthy experience in the field of organization and leadership development. Our resulting Three Rings model was used extensively by large companies like American Express and Black & Decker and dozens of other international corporations, health care institutions, and public agencies in their progress toward higher service/quality.

My next three posts will briefly overview each of the three rings. Use these to broaden and assess the value from the inside out that your team/department/organization adds as seen through the eyes of the customers you service or the internal teams you support.