Today I want to talk about delivery, And I don’t mean couriers and mail, I mean doing what you promise in business and delivering the basics well.
In a mature, competitive economy, you’d think you’d be able to rely on businesses doing the basics well as a matter of course. When there is strong competition in markets surely businesses that don’t do the basics well would lose the customer vote and go bust? Well you’d think so, but often the service in a whole sector seems very lacking - why is that? Capitalism seems to be very good at driving down prices, but sometimes it seems to come at the cost of poor service to such an extent that there isn’t any choice for consumers who actually want a good service delivered.
I think, though, that’s where you have an opportunity. Especially in a B2B service, where you have a smaller market of higher value clients you can make a dramatic difference to your business by being known as the one who delivers, the one who actually does what they say they will. Reputation, and the recommendations and referrals that come with it, has a real and tangible presence on the bottom line - your profits. And creating a delivery culture, is one of the most valuable things I think you can make in your business. It’s hard for lesser companies to copy and it’s much valued by your customers.
Many things get in the way of delivery. A delivery culture means your people see this and work around them.
“Deliver” is one of Asperity’s four values. Not because we had a problem here that we had to turn around, but because it’s critical for every service business and is something that is never finished and done. Every day in every service business is a struggle against “events” that try to get in the way of delivery. Operational delivery is a struggle. It requires constant effort, constant attention and vigilance. If it’s not one of your priorities now, you need to make it one, your success depends on it.
Doing the basics well is so valuable, and it requires a real, relentless focus to do it. Things go wrong in business all the time. If you have a delivery culture in your business then that means your people will see and notice when the business hasn’t really delivered for a customer and will automatically go into overdrive to put it right. A delivery culture can become a real, unique asset
Delivery where its not expected becomes a real USP.
Like pretty much everyone, I have a mobile phone contract and a broadband contract. Also like pretty much everyone, I’ve not ever had much of a good word to say about either provider - I’ve tarted around a bit and swapped due to poor service (Virgin Media being the worst in my book by a billion miles, but that’s another story), but in the end seem to have settled where I am thinking that that whole sector is poor at customer service so I might as well stay where I am. It’s a common story that people often say about banks, insurance companies and utilities “I can’t move they’re all the same”.
Great service, where I least expected it.
I lost my iPhone a couple of weeks ago. You know how it is, it’s in your hand one minute, the next you’ve got no idea where it is. I either left in in the back of a taxi or maybe it was pick pocketed from me in the street - who knows. Obviously, I didn’t have insurance, but anyway the first thing I thought of was how awful it would be the next day to have to spend ages in a queue on the phone company’s switchboard to explain it all, then wondering how long I would be without a phone.
So it wasn’t the loss or money that was first in my mind, it was the dread of the inconvenience, hassle and time without being connected that I was worried about.
So at 8.30 the next morning, I bit the bullet and started looking for Vodafone’s number. the first thing I noticed was how good their website was on my iPad - and I found the number in a second. I settled down for a long queue and started doing my emails, when someone answered within 3 rings. Not a voice message or queue, an actual person.
So, I explained that I’d lost my phone and the representative said she was sorry to hear that (What? Empathy? Now I was really sitting up, this wasn’t what I expected). She went on to block my SIM and IMEI number quickly - in less than a minute, and to explain that if I went to my local Vodafone store I could buy a new handset, they would give me a SIM card on the spot and I could walk out with a working phone. Today! No waiting, no messing about - I was impressed.
4 hours later, I was in the Vodafone store in Bayswater near our office, with a new iPhone in hand, a very nice retail assistant had given me a new SIM card on the spot, installed it for me, set me up via iTunes, registered the phone and yes, I was actually back on and connected. All with no trouble. To say I was impressed is an understatement. They made the whole thing look effortless
I’ve been in business for long enough to know how much effort Vodafone must have gone to to make that all look effortless. Operational delivery does’t come easy, and to do that Vodafone have had to have all of their systems lined up properly in real time, given their stores the ability to program SIM’s in real time, align bonuses, commissions and store KPI’s around service and train their staff properly. Good service, even on the basics, does’t come for free and it often does’t come easy. But god, is it valuable when you do it.
3 weeks ago, I would’t have had a single positive word to say about one mobile provider over another “They’re all the same”, I would have said. Today I would’t shift my account from Vodafone for all the discount you could throw at me.
Innovation and opportunity can be the enemy of operational basics
In a competitive economy, we’re often looking for the next big thing, the next sexy innovation, or feature that we can tout as the new USP. When marketing your product or service, lists of features and bells & whistles seem to sell. But basic service and quality, which can often be harder to communicate than new features are the real USP that will keep your customers coming back time and time again, creating loyalty reputation, referral and building your brand.
The Asperity staff induction talks about Delivery and Innovation. They’re not mutually exclusive and often good operational delivery require a lot of innovation in process and procedure. Delivering this is genuinely a job that never ends. You have to constantly keep looking at your product, service and process from the customer perspective and allow yourself to be really self critical about where it falls short.
Innovating in process is only part of the story though. Because things (and events!) will get in the way of operational delivery all the time, you need to really train your staff to spot operational failure on an hourly and daily basis. They need to be trained to spot it, empowered to put it right and motivated to want to bother. Excellence in delivery requires a lot of effort, so creating a Delivery Culture, where your staff really, really want to deliver excellence is the only way to really do it - even the best process manual won’t be able to do it for you.
So thinking about your own delivery culture is something that I’d urge everyone to do this week - where does your product or service fall down on the basics? Which bit would you not like as a customer? if you can make an improvement there this week, then you’ve taken a real step to starting a delivery culture.
This week : It’s all about technology
In many businesses, technology is a key enabler of delivery. And technology problems can be a key contributor towards failure to deliver - how many times has your homework been late because the computer chewed it up? So to help, I’m going to dedicate the rest of this week of blog posts to technology related comment. I hope it helps.
Honest policy : Asperity’s product Reward Gateway features offers from Vodafone and is responsible for selling a lot of Vodafone subscriptions and handsets, as we do for all of the other networks as well. We’re also talking to Vodafone about their own employee benefits at the moment, but that hasn’t affected the editorial here.