January 25, 2024

Exceptional service

I’m a fan of the 80/20 rule when it comes to documenting processes in a Customer Experience Score.

Trying to document every possible permutation of what can happen is counter-productive. First, because it makes things harder to follow for the 80% of cases that go through smoothly, which means people stop using the Score. Second, because you’ll never capture every possible case. Third, because dealing creatively with exceptions is what humans do well.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about those exceptions though. Because if they are critical, you do need to design a process to address them. For example, my dog-walking business client has a process for dealing with a dog that runs away during a walk. This is hopefully a very infrequent occurrence, but it must be handled well to live up to the business’s Promise to both dog and owner.

Some exceptions are less critical, and so may not need to be documented as such, but people still need to be trained to look for and deal with them.

Another example, this time a coffee shop that set up for a while in my local shopping mall some years ago.

They used a very clever, but simple process for ensuring their kind of old-fashioned service:

You waited at the entrance. When there was a table ready, you were ushered over to it and given a copy of the menu. Someone came and took your order, taking the menu away once they had delivered it.

It worked beautifully. Nobody was seated at a dirty table and the staff could easily tell who was waiting to give or receive their order.

Except, if you wanted another coffee, or a friend joined you halfway through, there was no way to re-order, except by trying to catch someone’s eye. But they weren’t looking for you, they were looking for menus.

There was no need to make this a big deal, just to train staff that this was a scenario to scan for every now and then, so they didn’t miss the opportunity for further sales.

You would only need to change the main process if this scenario became more common, and it could be a simple change – just give people another flag to put up if they want extra service as you sit them down.

If you wanted to be more sophisticated you could ask them ‘are you expecting someone else to join you?’ or ‘are you here for a quick coffee, or a longer break?’ as you show them to their table.

The point is that documenting the usual route is enough, but you still need to train the people running your processes to spot likely variations and deal with them appropriately – including flagging them up as candidates for becoming part of the 80%.

Because its how you deal with exceptions that makes your service exceptional.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

Ask me how.