Thursday, March 27, 2008

Are you being served?

It is said that the only thing which separates your company from the competition, is the quality of the service you provide.

We’ve all got plenty of examples of the poor service we’ve received, but sadly, perhaps fewer of the good. I want to concentrate on the good, and to examine some of the reasons why.

Let me give you one or two examples from my personal experience.

Take the case of the guy who services my car. Not only does he charge a fair price, he also picks up the car from my office in the morning and delivers it back in the evening. As a result I have often recommended him to many of my friends.

Or the case of the lady who runs my local mini-market (corner shop). I regularly stop there to buy the odds and ends which I might have run out of, prior to the weekly shop at the market. A few weeks ago I was in there buying a few cans of beer. I'm not too fussy about brands, and although I might usually buy a particular one, she said to me on checking out that why don't I take another brand as they are on offer at present, and I hadn't noticed. She didn't need to do this, as I was now buying something which gave her less revenue. But she did, and as a result, more often than not now, I will buy from her rather than from the supermarket, even if it might be easier when I'm getting all the rest of the shopping.

And how about my newspaper vendor, from whom I buy my newspaper most mornings. One morning a few weeks ago I was later than usual and there was only one left. I commented how lucky I was. He replied that it wasn't lucky, because he had saved it for me. I had never asked him to do that, but do it he did.

Notice a theme here? All of these positive cases I've mentioned have one common factor - they are running their own businesses, however small they may be, and perhaps therein lies one of the answers to the reasons why we seem to get better service from small, owner-run businesses. Could it be that they recognise that they get their income from us, their customers, and we have a choice - to use them, or their competitors. Employees of much larger organisations may not have this same level of enlightenment.

But I would not place the blame on them. I would place it firmly with the owners of the businesses who have failed to provide their people with the right motivation. In my opinion, it's not their training that is lacking, either in substance or quality, it's a far greater problem one which will not be solved until businesses which employ large numbers of people, recognise the critical importance of what I term intrinsic motivation.

Everyone, without fail, is (inherently) positively motivated by something. It might be money, a pleasant working environment, performance-based incentives, share options, longer holidays or whatever. It doesn't matter what it is, employers need to find out from their employees and then act upon it. Of course, you're never going to be able to please (motivate) all of the people all of the time. However, as long as an employer manages to feed the intrinsic motivation of the majority of his employees, he'll find a marked increase in customer satisfaction, which will ultimately turn into increased profitability.

Another facet of life working in a small companies (eg less than 10 people), is that you really do feel a part of the organisation, and not merely someone who needs an ID tag around their neck so the company’s security people knows who they are. There are less than 10 in my consultancy (dozens more of course in our network of associates), and I am proud to tell you that they all not only know our company’s goals, short and long term , they are also intrinsically motivated to want to succeed. They know that if the company succeeds it’s because of them, and that the result will be the reward they KNOW they’ll want. And it isn’t just money.

Large companies CAN do this too, and I know of one from personal experience. They are one of the world’s largest international banks and I worked for them for some 28 years, in London, Hong Kong and Malaysia. In each location they strived hard to keep people as informed as possible about the company’s goals and its performance against those targets. OK, as this can be market sensitive information, it had to be cloaked in terms which related to percentage increases and so on rather than exact figures, except of course, where this was public information anyway.

People are far better self-motivated when they have a clear picture of how their own performance has contributed to the company’s. Hopefully too, this will be reflected in their performance appraisal – but that’s a topic for another time.


MayaKirana said...

Good examples! Yes, I often notice too that the small business owners tend to take the time and make a conscious effort to serve their customers better. In our case, we could always buy cheaper PC hardware at the countless PC Fairs here in Penang but we stick to one guy who runs his shop at Bukit Jambul Complex (which by the way is not the place we go often, due to parking problems etc). But we still call him to order our PC stuff because he is honest, humble and proactive, often recommends good stuff and keeps us alerted of the good stuff. Where to find such a PC guy? And yes, he's been there for years. His goods may not be the cheapest but price is never a factor most times, especially when you know that other factors count such as stellar customer service!

ZEPHYR said...

Hi MayaKirana, what a lovely name! Maya happens to be my grandaughter's name. I too could have given a small PC company's service as another example of good service and immediately contrasted it with the relatively poor service from a much larger one. Again following the theory (and practice) of the much better customer service from the small business owner.

Thanks not only for the comment, but for being the very first person to post a comment on my blog.