I met with an old friend of mine over the weekend for a much needed catch up. When I asked him how work was going, he launched enthusiastically into the story of the last few months. He works as a service manager for an air conditioning company, which he loves.
“So how come things are so great?” I asked.
“Well it all started a couple of years back…” he replied, going into detail about how he watched the business he adores losing customers day after day through ineffective and inefficient (ultimately bad) service.
“I’d set about finding out how we could improve the way we worked” he explained. “For starters, service is a real-time business - knowing what our workers were doing days or weeks after it happened was just no longer good enough.”
At this point I was intrigued to know why that was.
“Take last Tuesday for example” he said, “one of my guys was called out to a priority 1 call. En-route, he hit heavy traffic from a motorway diversion, and wouldn’t have made the call within the set SLAs. I re-allocated him another job and sent a different engineer who could meet the SLAs.”
“In this instance, it was vital I knew what was happening at the time it was happening, in order to meet our customers’ expectations. With the old system, I would have had no idea where either of those engineers were and if anyone could have reached the customer in the required time.”
I was impressed, but Mike was not done yet…
“So not only have we smashed our SLA targets every month for the past 12 months, but my workers are genuinely happier. I speak regularly with the guys and I’ve been told what a difference it makes to them being at the centre of our service function - and our customers can see that too. Because I can see the performance of each and every one my team, I’m able to set realistic tailored goals, which can then be fairly rewarded.”
“But how is this different from before?” I asked.
“Oh it’s massively different!” Mike exclaimed. “A couple of years back, one individual was usually the one in the team with the least jobs completed every day. Yet he’d be treated the same as the rest of the team. Telling me that they were particularly long jobs, I had no evidence otherwise, and so had to take his word for it. So one day I sat down and had a chat with him, as I had the other guys, and I told him about the new way of working that we were going to introduce. At first I could see he was totally opposed to the idea - we both knew he was a lazy worker - then within weeks of the new solution being in place something extraordinary happened…”
After a few moments of silence where Mike appeared to be reminiscing, I asked what happened next. A big smile appeared on his face as he told me about how this particular guy is now one of his best performing workers.
“Giving the team the incentive to work hard in every area of service, from simply being more efficient in-between jobs, to improving first time fixe rates, to going out of their way for the customer - it all goes towards increasing their performance score, which benefits them, me, and my customers - service has never had it so good!”
It was great to see Mike so happy and his company doing so well again. A few hours later as I got up to leave, I asked Mike where the nearest coffee shop was.
“Next street along” he said, “but you’re better off going the extra mile to the next one as the service there is rubbish”. Without even thinking, I drove the extra mile, and the service I received was great.