As many of you know David and I recently went across the country on tour in a camper van in search of excellence in our teams (another story about that will follow). As part of this adventure we stayed in a variety of hotels in different towns throughout the week. I was amazed by the massive disparity between the hotels even though they often had the same or similar ratings.
So, how can these hotels of such contrasting standards merit the same rating? The problem with all main classification schemes is that they look simply at what is on offer (pool, parking, 24 hour room service, bar, spa, gym) but take no account of the sort of attention to detail which makes the difference between a good hotel and a bad hotel. This is often the case when trying to establish KPIs, SLAs and MI for a subjective service such front of house operations. Let’s consider reporting….
Many people are often heavily focussed on volumes as a way to assess whether they’re getting value for money – They might say “wow, visitor numbers are up 25%!” but they’re thinking “no extra headcount… I knew they weren’t that busy down there”. What they really should be asking is, “what was the experience of all visitors now with an unsupported increase? Are our guests, clients and colleagues still getting an exceptional service that reflects our brand?”
In SLAs another great example is length of a telephone call. “The average length of call should be no more than 30 seconds”. Managers are assessed on this, some are even incentivised on it and as a result the “30 second rule” is drilled into team members. So, in peak volumes, are the team really giving customers great service or do they constantly have one eye on the clock?
One organisation we recently worked with asked us to ensure that our receptionists used exactly the same greeting. We argued this on the grounds that people want to be welcomed and not processed. While the first visit feels professional, every subsequent visit after that feels robotic. While many organisations take comfort in knowing that every single person is greeted into the building in an exact fashion, we prefer a personal welcome and try to avoid the “would you like fries with that?” approach.
We have also come across organisations that manage service by KPIs. They enforce pages of KPIs on their supplier that have to be (at the suppliers time, and expense) monitored monthly and even weekly and daily. The suppliers’ skills and expertise are often consumed with reporting on information that often has little or no impact for the end user.
Monitor what matters – and what matters actually isn’t the what at all but rather the how. That isn’t to say that there isn’t room for KPIs and SLAs but at the end of the day it’s what the customer – the end user – thinks of the service that really matters. So ask them! Hold focus groups, send out surveys, host lunch and learn sessions. As we all know customers, if given that chance, are not shy about telling you what they think. This is often the excuse not to do it, which is something I’ve never really understood. After all, isn’t that supposed to be our focus? I’m always amazed at how grateful they are to be asked about some of the little things we do that make them happy and some really easy fixes that can make their day.
By focussing on the how, we focus on the detail and are able set out “who we want to be” for our customers and not just what we want to give them.
By Debra Ward