Friday, August 21, 2009

Shortening the Queue

Back to Obama again, and The Audacity of Hope. This is one of those rare books I am compelled to underline, flag, and mark. Here's another quote that speaks directly to the original theme of my blog, "I am convinced - although I have no statistical evidence to back it up - that antitax, antigovernment, antiunion sentiments grow anytime people find themselves standing in line at a government office with only one window open and three or four workers chatting among themselves in full view." (p. 73)

I've tested this quote against a few of my friends, and they laugh. They recognize the image. It does make sense. My friend was reminded also of bank lines, where perhaps four or five bank tellers are at their counter, but only one is open. A supervisor perhaps, the receptionist, loans officers and the bank manager also will be busy (or not busy) at their own tasks. No-one takes ownership to shorten that line save the one designated bank teller. For the person standing in line, do they feel valued; is attendance of their needs a priority? Oviously, observably, not. In return, how much loyalty and good-feeling does the customer build for the bank?

I'm reminded also of the business pundits' warning that companies who want to remain competitive should invest their time figuring out what the customer really wants. From Covey's book, "Predictable Results", "Clearly, the App Store is successful because it allows customers to get exactly what they want immediately and in a simple and inexpensive way. " How do you find out what customers really want? The best results aren't from analysing satisfaction ratings or survey results. These may be filtered or distorted by the collection method itself. Find out by walking around.

A great example of customer service is Pike Place Fish. I am re-reading their book, "Catch - A Fishmonger's Guide to Greatness" and I am reminded again that every fishmonger makes a personal intention - every day - to give each customer a memorable experience. I am a head-over heels, starry-eyed fan of these guys. A couple years ago, I went to check them out myself. I was increasingly nervous as I approached their booth in the market. Would they live up to the hype? Why, yes, they did. In a very personal way. I didn't catch any fish. But they did make my visit memorable in many small ways. I have the autographed book to prove it.

Visit the counters and the waiting rooms. See what the customers see. Inspire your front workers to take a personal interest in every customer that comes across their desk. Don't ever let it become routine, dull, "take another number". Let everyone who visits you for services leave feeling they have been heard, understood.

Customers have memories.