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Defining Service Excellence

What is Service Excellence?

Simply stated, good customer service is the extent to which a product or service meets the customer’s needs and expectations. Service excellence is when these expectations are surpassed and when customers feel that a company or employee has gone beyond the call  – it’s that intangible, unexpected “extra” in the form of a spontaneous, extra feature, experience or delight.

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get.”
– Nelson Boswell

When customers evaluate a product or service they will compare their perception with the actual delivered product or service to what they think it should be. This process is often done at a subconscious level.
Organizations that seek to provide service excellence understand the needs, expectations and basic psychology of its customers, and continually work on evaluating and evolving its processes,  in all departments, in order to exceed these needs and expectations. Successful companies proactively engage with customers, not only in order to provide exceptional service but to receive their feedback on product or service development and improvement. They have a comprehensive system in place for receiving this feedback, and empower their employees to operate autonomously in the fulfillment of their customer service duties as well as resolution of conflicts or complaints.
The Customer Service Institute of America recently awarded several companies and individuals with the 2017 ISEA (International Service Excellence Award) These awards are not easy to come by,  since the nomination and eligibility process is rigorous.  We compare the company’s or individual’s service to the service criteria as outlined in the International Customer Service Standard (ICSS).  The ICSS is based on a balanced scorecard methodology and evaluate service, finance, operations and employee development. These 4 areas are reviewed, with specific criteria for each, for both organizations and individuals that move forward as ISEA finalists.


The articulation of a company’s goal and service standards is the first step in determining the company’s level of service excellence, therefore the following areas are addressed:

  • Customer satisfaction research activities and the processes that are used to communicate and utilize its results with regards to improving customer experience and product and/or service lines.
  • Customer service performance of the organization and how it has changed over time.
  • The culture of the organization. Is it customer centric?


The process, achievements and level of financial gain are reviewed by looking at:

  • Revenue and growth
  • Productivity improvement
  • Asset utilization
  • Investment strategy

Financial performance is compared to the company’s own history as well as that of similar organizations and how this performance corresponds to customer experience and loyalty. Is there a direct link that can be seen between financial performance and customer service? The focus is on understanding the ROI when investing in projects directly linked to improving the customer experience.


Finalists demonstrate how they or their organization maintain predictability and consistency in their customer service delivery processes.
They are asked to explain what systems are are in place to ensure exceptional customer care, and how these systems help with their customer service delivery process.

Learning & Growth

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”

– Tom Peters

Employee service, satisfaction and development are reviewed by addressing the following questions:

  • Is there an employee satisfaction survey in place? What processes are used to communicate and utilize these results?
  • What is the process used for determining and developing the employee competency requirements?
  • What system is in place to recognize and reward staff in relation to customer service?

We applaud the individuals and companies that have demonstrated complete alignment with the ISEA standards by successfully documenting how service excellence is carried out in all the above categories.
If you or your company would like to be considered for this prestigious award, or you would like to nominate a company or service professional, please click here for more information on the 2018 International Service Excellence Awards.

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Customer Service Institute of America