Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Long Tail of Poor Customer Service

Do you know this curve? If you don’t, chances are, your organization is suffering from at least one of two problems; most likely both: underserved customers and overworked employees. A smart manager, hopefully you, should read that as dissatisfied customers and burned out people.

According to the chart, if your organization is operating at greater than 80% of its capacity, you have entered the long tail of poor customer service where customers are guaranteed to encounter a wait, a long wait. Worse yet, in this long tail, small changes in use lead to large changes in line length and wait time.

Now, it may be fashionable to be seen waiting in line to get into the latest hot restaurant. Or, it may be worth the wait to get tickets for a must-see performance. But, have you ever gone into a store, picked up a few items and abandoned the purchase because the wait at the counter was too long; not worth the wait? When was the last time you thought it was fashionable to be seen waiting in a line at the grocery store check-out?

Long lines may be remarkable, but it’s a fact of life that most organizations don’t thrive by making people wait.

Further, the graph shows that as the demand for your services reaches your capacity to provide those services, customer wait time will approach infinity. Of course, you don’t have an infinite pool of customers to draw from and nobody will wait forever.

If you don’t know where or how long your customers are waiting, you can’t fix the wait and you are losing money to your competition.

So, look at the processes and tasks you use to provide the services your customers are paying for. Get to “Know the Machine” that drives your “Value Proposition” and identify the bottlenecks where processes and customers have to wait. Piles of inventory, long lines and full “Queues” are a good indicator. Develop a “Singularity of Intent” that makes the elimination of you longest line your purpose in life. Repeat.

What are you waiting for? Better yet, what are your customers waiting for? I’ll bet you a dollar they won’t be waiting for long.

Take Care...

John

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