I was on a three hour train journey the other day. The staff were perfectly friendly but the way they worked was quite farcical.
First, someone came through the carriage offering coffee and tea. The person with the ‘milk and sugar’, I was reliably told, was following on. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, my coffee had already cooled down considerably and, therefore, I couldn’t enjoy the ‘hot’ coffee with a little sugar for which I was hoping.
I decided to ask why they didn’t serve the hot drinks as they do on most planes on which I have travelled. That is, coffee comes first with milk and sugar, followed by a colleague with the tea, who also has their own milk and sugar. In this way, I explained, the drinks don’t get cold while one waits.
‘No Karen is in charge of milk and sugar’, I was reliably told by Neil who was clearly responsible for the hot beverages.
This farcical situation continued the whole journey. That is, individuals undertaking what seemed to be half a task, with the job being completed by a colleague. Later on, when I had consumed the Coke I had been drinking, I was asked if I had finished with the glass. I replied in the affirmative and the glass was dutifully cleared away. When I explained to Michelle that I had also finished with the can, I was politely told that Neil was ‘in charge’ of rubbish; she was ‘head of glasses’.
At this point both I and the gentleman opposite could not help but laugh.
Apparently, Michelle – who had plenty of room on the trolley which she was pushing – could not clear my empty can away, even though it would have provided me with a little more room on the crowded table where I was trying to work. This was because Neil – who was clearly a man of many talents – was not only in charge of tea and coffee, but was also adept at clearing away the rubbish from the tables. Only trouble was, Neil actually didn’t show up until we had almost reached our destination and so the empty can of Coke stayed on my table for virtually the whole of my journey.
This got me thinking about how organisations work. Firstly, the staff working for this company were obviously trained to fulfill particular tasks rather than be concerned about the ‘customer experience’. This is a company that is not ‘customer centric’ in its approach. However, to be successful today, companies have to be ‘customer centric’. People no longer buy ‘products or services’ but ‘experiences’. We are in the age of the ‘experience economy’. This means the customer has to be at the heart of everything that a business does. It is only by doing this that a company will be able to deliver a great experience that will be talked about and shared with others.
Secondly, in this age of ‘Social Business’ where every customer touchpoint matters, organisations cannot afford for staff to have this one dimensional ‘silo thinking’. Just as the communications of a business have to be integrated across the different media and platforms which they use, so too, the service delivery must be integrated and staff need to be given a wider perspective on what the business is trying to achieve for its customers.
Without this, it is unlikely a customer will receive a satisfying end result.
So the question you must ask yourself is this; ‘Does your business have a ‘Head of Glasses’? If it does, isn’t it time you looked at organising your company to deliver a great experience for the customer? It is only by having this attitude that any business can become truly outstanding in today’s business environment.