I judge several customer service awards each year which is always interesting because it gives an insight in to what “good” looks like in the world of service provision. Many use detailed—some might say complicated—programmes of measurement and processes to ensure and/or show their service stays up to standard.
Quite often the programmes have many layers of processes to go through if a service failure occurs and the scheme to manage that failure frequently involves a number of people. The thought and effort which has gone into these programmes is astonishing, clearly they have been nurtured and improved over time to produce a result which pushes customer satisfaction numbers up to 80% or more.
But do they produce outstanding service? I do try and mystery shop the companies I judge but this is often tricky as they might be providing specialist service or be a business-to-business provider so it is hard to tell. However, what I do know is that some of the most outstanding service suppliers never enter competitions, and I asked why. Overwhelmingly, the answer was one of slight consternation. They don’t have time and besides, rather than reflecting on what they have achieved already, they are still working on the service to improve it further.
Support for Business Growth
One such company is Rontec, which runs petrol forecourts and shops under the Shop’n ‘Drive brand. It is a 24/7 business, geographically spread throughout the UK and growing fast. Rontec have the simplest and most successful formula for managing service I have seen for a long time. The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are very straightforward. There are only three of them and the Operators who run the sites can influence them by doing their roles well.
The Managers who work in the field are there to support, not police the results. Each of the people running the sites are effectively running their own business, albeit to a clearly prescribed formula. As one Operator told me when I was interviewing the team for this piece said: “I couldn’t believe it when the new Area Manager rang me and said can I help with your staffing issue?”
There is a vast difference between support for business growth and the kind of support which enables poor performance. What Rontec have perfected is the former. This support ramps up when there is a problem and gears down when everything, including the KPI’s, are running smoothly. However support is still there in good times as well as when it is needed. What Rontec realise is that good behaviour should be rewarded with attention, not just those directed with issues.
Another key component of the attention given to Operators is the visits from the Chairman, CEO and their top team, who spend every Saturday and Wednesday visiting up to twelve petrol stations to give clear (it has been described as forthright) advice on how best to optimise each site. This might be seen as a worry for some delivering services, but for the franchised owners of the sites this is seen as an investment in their business by the management team, who have over fifty years’ experience of managing petrol stations.
I talked with the Chairman about how he sees the management of persistent complaints and it was clear that he is focussed on people getting things right. We discussed the concept used in many of the organisations I see who manage issues in the following way:
|Employee joins service organization||Employee trained and shown procedures to follow|
|Issue occurs||Employee coached on what happened and how it should have been done|
|Issue occurs again||Employee offered additional training and on-going mentoring to ensure training has been successful|
|Issue occurs again||Employee invited to a meeting with manager to discuss the issue, offered more mentoring|
|Issue occurs again||Employee given warning|
I described this process to the Chairman as a “carrot, carrot, carrot, sticks” approach. He was appalled that this is how organisations approach management of issues and declared that he “was not in the fruit and vegetable business.” My feeling is that more organisations need to be like his because there is very strong evidence that his way produces happier staff and customers than the other more iterative approach.
How do I know? There is measurement in place, it is light touch and aimed squarely at delivering more benefits for customers, which in turn translates to a better business for the franchisee.
Measurements show that customer satisfaction levels are 99% excellent and good. In some sites we surveyed the excellent score alone hits nearly 90%, a level which even the best organisations can often only dream about. Yet this is achieved in one of the toughest businesses to work in, with remote workforces, often lone workers and on the lower pay end of business.
I wanted to take apart some of the aspects of Rontec’s programme and describe it because those using more complex, multi-layered scheme can learn and apply. So apologies to Gerald Ronson, the business legend who runs Rontec, this is how to use his very straightforward model in your organisation.
- Deploy support rather than policing wherever possible. Doing this means that you can focus yourself and the whole team on the same thing, which needs to be about success, whatever that looks and feels like in your organisation.
- Invest in tip-top design. Rontec used a premier league designer to re-design not just their shops but their Head Office as well. Excellent design may not be obvious to everyone cognitively but it changes the way people feel and react. Fused with the focus on success, this allows a smooth path to the goal.
- Senior team shares their expertise. The senior team are the top experts at what they do. This expertise needs to be shared with everyone in the business, meaning being out there with those working on the ground. Find ways for this to happen as part of the routine, not a special event. It has to be planned into the schedule every week.
- Keep control of the big picture, but ensure that command chains are short. Ensure those who want to contribute can and feel like they can. Never shut out feedback and make channels available for it to come and reach the people it needs to reach.
- Think big but act small. Stay close to the operation, especially if you are near the top of it.
- Strong drive for cleanliness at their sites. This works as the touch point for Rontec, if it is clean then the base standards have been met. At The Halo Works we focus on hitting deadlines. Find your organisation’s key driver and use it as your benchmark. Don’t worry about benchmarking other organisations on the same key driver, just focus on yours alone.