Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Missed It by That Much”

I had dinner the other night at a new local restaurant with my wife.  She asked me about how a restaurant might improve their service.  Seems a reasonable question and I am constantly evaluating the service I get or don’t get.

I thought I would order a sandwich like I do at my favorite “other restaurant” and that would be a grilled tenderloin with extra pickle and a cottage cheese side.  I gave my order to the waiter, she wrote nothing down.  Sure enough, the sandwich came fried and i had to send it back.  The waiter also failed to provide eating utensils or apologize for the wrong order.  The tenderloin (#2) was OK, but nothing special.

As a new restaurant, that is trying to secure new customers . . . they did not provide service that I expected or “what mattered” to me.  Had they been able to do this, I may have switched to the new restaurant.  Why?  Because a week later I had a similar experience at my favorite restaurant.  In fact, I can think of a few restaurants that failed one way or another which meant there was opportunity.

It reminds of the story that I heard years ago, where two hikers coming out of a tent run across a grizzly bear.  One hiker starts to slowly put on his tennis shoes and the other hiker on seeing this says, ” You are never going to outrun that bear.”  The response, “I don’t have to outrun that bear, I just need to outrun you.”

The issue is that you never know what the competition is really doing.  Don’t worry about what the competition does, just worry about what you are doing.  If you can “execute” to “what matters” to customers you probably can build a decent clientele.  The problem is restaurants seem to be focused on things that don’t matter to me.  And  if you want to get my business . . . get my order right.

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Jet2.com – This is One Airline to Avoid

Boeing 757-200 takes off at Manchester Airport

Boeing 757-200 takes off at Manchester Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Airlines have generally been poor performers in the customer experience.  Pretty much every airline can not get it right.  I was going on a trip to Portugal and found Jet2.com and thought, “OK, budget airline . . . how much worse could it be?”  The answer is somewhere between a lot and criminal.

The website showed the really low fares, but there are fees for just about everything from breakfast, luggage and my personal favorite  . . . checking in on-line.  You see if you fail to check in on-line you have to pay about $27 for the privilege.  I had forgotten this and although I thought $27 was a bit steep, I paid it.

However, while I was waiting to pay a couple in front of me had tried to check-in on-line and the check-in failed.  I listened to the story as they spoke to a manager about the on-line issue.  The manager asked if they had written the error message and error code down (who would think to do that?).  Because the couple had failed to write down these two important pieces of information, they were out over $55 – at least if they wanted to travel that day.  I thought to myself, “who would think it is intuitive to write the error message down, besides shouldn’t the website working be the responsibility of Jet2.com?”

I made a mental note to be sure to work out something with the front desk at the hotel to print my return ticket.  When the day before leaving arrived, I went to work to “check-in” for the flight the next day.  The website asked for a series of passport information.  You have to select your country of issue (for the passport) and what country you lived in – both are the USA.  The first drop down menu had USA, but the second one did not have “USA” as a country to select.  Entrapping technology for customers is a huge problem in service, everyone wants to send customers to cheaper channels – they rarely become cheaper when you look end-to-end.  Variety in service demand sees to that.

When I arrived at the Portugal airport the next day, I knew that I would be blamed somehow for the website snafu, I just wasn’t sure how – so, I played it out.  The check-in desk told me I would have to go to a different desk to pay or plead my case.  Two other families were already there because the had hit the wrong airport during check-in and the other was confused about the selection – both wound up having to pay.

My turn, I explained to the agent about the drop down menu missing “USA” and the response was even more egregious than I had expected,  “We have had USA residents check-in on line before and they had no problem.”

Seriously!  This is a response that has nothing to do with MY problem – are you kidding?  I implored her to look on the website and see for herself, but she would have none of it.  I paid my (close to) $30 this time and decided to use the power of the internet to exact retribution.

The issue to me is that this airline can not or should not survive.  Allowing such poor service and getting away with it needs a public verdict or at least disclosure.  With all the failure demand coming into the desk at Jet2.com, it will eventually collapse under its own cost structure – it requires people to deal with these problems even if they get paid.  Add in the number of people that will swear never to fly them again and they will not last.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Right Attitude to Improvement

Working with a new company that has the right attitude going into the effort, one can only be optimistic.  The management is begging to be challenged, it is encouraged.  However, I am caught in a world between realism and hope.  There will be a roller coaster ride of emotion for my new client – management and workers alike.

Many prospective customers struggle with what the 95 Method (tVM) is about and try to fit it into their existing paradigm.  This makes the conversation awkward as the expectation of many is that I do process improvement . . . and I don’t.  Managers with this thinking want to do things better, tVM is about doing better things.  This is one of several reasons why improvement is so dramatic for those executives that understand that this means them too – when it comes to change.

Executives become participants by design.  Other improvement efforts embrace “sponsorship” and “support” which to me is completely lame and leaves too much improvement on the table – not empirical, but something like 30 – 40%.  Sustainability improves dramatically when executives understand – they are less likely to undo the good things.

The reality is that too few executives want to be challenged.  Ego and position in hierarchy play a role in this thinking.  Executives making the big money should have the answers in their mind and being challenged is – therefore, viewed as confrontational.  Nothing wrong with confrontation, but only when it is invited in.

Most people that know about the 95 Method know they will be challenged when we are invited in, the reputation of our successful work with clients often precedes us.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Management Hurdles for Break-through Improvement

The funny thing about change is that management wants all the change, but doesn’t want to change themselves.

The biggest hurdles to improvement are management.  This is not referencing how to do things better to the front-line . . . it is management by itself.  The problem is in the mirror.

Recent events have allowed me to take inventory of management hurdles.  So let’s take a look:

Politics. To survive large bureaucratic service organizations (all of them), you have to look good all the time.  A silver-tongue (another word for BS) goes a long way when compared to knowledge.  “Didn’t he say that well” does not overcome the lack of facts and evidence in the communication.

Navigating the politics has usually gotten folks in management positions.  Inevitably why we have so many dopes in management.  Looking good does not mean performing well.  In fact, it is a red flag.

Me, get my hands dirty? Closely related to the political hurdle are management that prefer the comfort of their office or being away from the office.  Meetings can kill lots of time too.  Asking management to be in the work to get knowledge and/or evidence usually gets that deer in the headlight look – who me?  The higher up, the more difficult as the egos are bigger.

It begs the question, did people get into management because they didn’t want to do real work?  The shuffling of papers and dictates from the mountain do not really help create value, they create more waste.

The management factory. All those people that management hires to help with the politics and looking good.  You hear words and phrases like “best practice,”  “governance” and “plans.”  Scores of people hired to help build the plans and others ensure that the front-line is following their mandates.  All add no value and waste precious resources.

The front-line folks are either frustrated by or aspire to be in the management factory.  Because creating value for customers just isn’t cool.  Making front-line employees do stupid things is much more fun.  Costly, but fun.

Hierarchy. No one and I mean no one talks to the boss until all the boxes are ticked.  A front-line employee reaching out to a CEO or an executive is not allowed.  There is an open door policy, but of course all the boxes must be ticked.  You will grow old navigating the hierarchy.  If you are lucky enough you may be granted 5 minutes with the big cheese as long as you keep to the script.

All of these things create dysfunctional organizations.  As pathetic as they are, they are in all organizations in varying degrees.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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US Government – Ideology or Evidence?

As other governments look for examples to get out of their current mess, they should not be looking to the US or UK for guidance.  The UK expenditures have tripled in health care and doubled in local authorities.  The US has performed no better . . . . health care (Medicaid and Medicare), social programs, social security and just about every program run by government in the US is run so poorly that we have a tremendous deficit.

But our biggest deficit in the US is one of thinking.

You see ideology which breeds emotion and foolish decisions rules the day in the US.  Republicans want less government, and a balanced budget.  Democrats want more programs to be added to help people (i.e., more government), and more stimulus.  The two parties are at such odds that they can’t get anything done and everybody is mad.  Independents hold their nose and vote.

The problem in the US is ideology of both parties blinded by huge assumptions and biases.  At each others’ throats day in and day out.  Either side trying to keep power or trying to get it.  No agreement on anything – gridlock, frustration and irate voters.  Ideological stupidity reigns in the US.

Because of the extremes of both parties their learning has been lost to spinning – the art of failures being twisted to be a good thing.  Attack and counterattacks rather than coming together to solve problems.

What about evidence?

No one actually looks for evidence that would be foolish.  US Government systems are too complex, they require ideology.  And so the pendulum swings between the ideologies of left and right . . . Democrat and Republican.  Stalemate.

Evidence of what works and doesn’t work can be found but you have to look without bias and ideology.  It does require actually putting petty party differences aside, rolling up the sleeves and getting in the work – together as Americans.

On September 11, 2001 I drove to work from Randolph, New Jersey to Morris Plains.  A clear day and on those clear days you could see the Twin Towers rising from the City.  Later that day, all I could see was smoke of what remained.  Maybe we didn’t come together enough as Americans . . .

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Re-Inventing Capitalism

Back in 1931, during the Great Depression, many other countries thought the end of capitalism had come.  They looked to communism and socialism as the failed attempt at capitalism seemed imminent as the Depression dragged on. Hitler rose to power in Germany and Stalin in Russia.

In the past 50 years, the US has managed to:

  • Shed its manufacturing jobs with a combination of thirst for profit (outsourcing) and being out-competed by a country with few natural resources, but better method – Japan.
  • Ruined its world standing with risky loans from US banks (no matter who is to blame)
  • Increased the government deficit to the point that we have lost the coveted AAA credit rating and stand to lose the dollar as the currency of choice for the world
  • Running an unemployment rate of over 9% with the reality is the real number is much larger
  • Compromise whole organizations by executives maximizing corporate profits through manipulation to increase their personal balance sheets

Most of this has happened in more recent history and certainly isn’t a comprehensive list.  W. Edwards Deming told us that the peak for the US was 1968 and been in decline ever since.  All is not lost, but a wake-up call anyone?

Today’s turmoil with budget deficits and high unemployment rates leaves many questions about where the United States is heading.  It made me begin to question what capitalism is.  So, I looked up a definition:

An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.
Source: Dictionary.com

Somehow profits has been bastardized into meaning that if my own individual balance sheet is better off – that is profit.  Executives and investors get a bulk of the profit because that is who should profit in a capitalist system.  Somehow we have left the worker behind in favor of the other groups.  Aren’t the people that DO the work important?  What about the work itself?

Seems to me that making the work and the worker relevant again would be a good thing.  This has less to do with trickle down economics and more to do with greater profit.  And can we start making things again?  Products and services create value, shifting money around does little to improve our standing – the results are obvious.  Investment banking has become gambling.

Naturally a reset on how we design and manage work needs to happen and soon.  US businesses using industrialized design and economy of scale thinking for manufacturing and business will continue the slide Deming warned us about 30 years ago.  Little has changed . . . and in fact entropy has taken over and the decline accelerating.

Capitalism is still the best thing that is going, but some of the “add-ons” to the definition of capitalism or how they have been played out need evaluation.  The principles are there, but the details need rewritten.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Our Unemployment Debacle and the Deming Chain Reaction

W. Edwards Deming’s Chain Reaction is simple:

  1. Improve Quality
  2. Costs Decrease (by removal of waste and sub-optimization)
  3. Productivity Improves
  4. Capture the Market with Better Quality and Lower Price
  5. Stay in Business
  6. Provide Jobs and More Jobs

I have seen the “Chain Reaction” changed to “return on investment” from “provide jobs and more jobs.”  Rather self-serving to manipulate Deming’s thoughts.  The aim was to create jobs – a higher purpose.

Looking at the larger system called the US economy, there is great benefit to providing more jobs.  Less people in the welfare systems means less government spend and less government debt.  Something that has had our attention for the last two weeks.  An expensive system is the welfare system when over 9% of people are unemployed.

Private organizations are hoarding cash and are helping create a deteriorating economy in a Catch 22 – an attempt to protect themselves only worsens their condition.  More people go on the unemployment line meaning less people to spend money on products and services and then these same unemployed have to go through a welfare system wrought with waste that adds to the budget deficit.

We need a reset on corporate purpose.  A broader system is at stake than just our personal or corporate balance sheets.  Optimizing the American system will take a different approach.  The “me first” mentality has proven less than optimal.  Dr. Deming’s Chain Reaction is looking more brilliant everyday.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Counter-Intuitive ROI

ROI is often asked for by management to justify investments in technology or other investments.  Dead trees and time to present such mandatory reviews waste more resources then the alleged returns that organizations actually get . . . this means more hot air and manure than actual benefit.

Beautiful presentation . . . but most of these “dog and pony” shows have so little knowledge contained within them.  The only ROI really gained is to the vendor and not the customer of such efforts.

ROI comes from doing things that customers value.  This requires experimentation with method to deliver service, some of this requires technology – no doubt.  However, there is opportunity just in the design of the work and too many times technology gets in the way.

Instead massive plans and PowerPoints are put together to PROVE that ROI can be achieved.  Proof without evidence is the result.  Rarely, is a knowledge present or an experiment done that actually shows the change of method leads to ROI.

Baffle them with BS, rather than dazzle them with brilliance.

Embracing work and those that do the work that customers value just isn’t cool . . . but it is profitable.  In fact, it is extremely profitable.  The problem is that this thinking represents a management paradox to our current mindset about business improvement.  In the end it is a much better to ROI.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Service as a Commodity

An excellent post by Simon Caulkin called Not Customers but Commodities got my attention.  It illustrates how customers are being treated like commodities.  Technology, standardization or a combination of the two have left us feeling . . . shorted in the service we receive.

Efficiency has replaced sanity and customers feel it.  Service organizations (public and private) have looked to their own bottom-line to “hit the numbers.”  Meanwhile service to customers has deteriorated either rapidly or slowly, but does entropy.

Managers without fortitude or knowledge claim they are trying to balance profit and good service.  The result is disastrous and preposterous.  The false assumption is that there is a trade-off between good service and costs.  The “zero-sum game” as I call it.

The truth is there isn’t a trade-off.

Good service delivered the way a customer wants it always costs less.  Less handling and more revenue.  Oh, and less marketing to service customers that don’t need to be convinced of your good service – because you are delivering it.

Absorbing variety in a technology, best practice, rules, scripted and standardized world is very difficult and the customers are left out of the equation.  Like a product that is cheap but only lasts a few days, service is done in the cheapest manner at the expense of the customer.

The examples are many, like a contact center geared to answer calls that add revenue but put customers through the gauntlet when they have a problem.  In an attempt to avoid costs, service organizations add costs.  IVRs to navigate and back offices to negotiate . . . in a word it sucks.

The good news – for now- is that all your competition stinks too.  Customers are mired in mediocrity or less and yearn for someone to actually stand out.

However, given the service systems companies have designed business improvement seems so far away. Managing costs over rules good service.  If only service companies and governments understood that serving customers ineffectively is at the root of the causes of costs.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Would Workers Recognize You?

A salient question for executives . . . “would an employee recognize you?”  Are you ever seen in the work or do you live in that ivory tower with an “open door policy?”

Many times sitting with executives in meetings I amazed about what is discussed.  Financials and targets of course is a topic, but the wild assumptions made in meetings are certainly not based in knowledge.  Challenge the hierarchy and you stand to get knocked down.  Remember, executives don’t like their thinking challenged.

Here lies one of the biggest obstacles to improvement.

Certainly ego plays a role.  Salary sometimes carries perceived knowledge.  “He makes a lot of money, he must be really smart.”  Not really.  In fact, too many executives have so little knowledge about what matters to customers.  When you ask them about such things, the responses turn to lagging measures of financials and targets.  Occasionally, you might find some survey that might help an organization understand how well they did, but nothing on what matters to customers.

Why?

Because that can only be done by getting your hands dirty in the work.  Ask an executive and they will do almost anything to avoid the work.  Excuses vary:

  • That’s below my pay grade
  • Too busy with meetings or any number of other “important things”
  • Golf outing
  • Vendor boondoggle
  • Working from home
  • I’d just get in the way (very telling)
  • I need to be a visionary at my level
  • I understand the work I came from the front-line (it hasn’t changed?)

I could come up with more, but maybe self-reflection would be a better method.

If executives are going to make decisions that will effect  the work of many, shouldn’t they really have knowledge about what is being changed?  Relying on vendors or “people I trust” just won’t cut the mustard anymore.  They need to be engaged before a plan is put together and the ball starts rolling down the hill to the point of no return.

I have learned that understanding your organization a system is not a spectator sport.  It requires engagement and understanding of the real problems – not the ones an executive has a tendency to make assumptions about that aren’t there.  Hiring “good people” is not enough unless you are willing to let them make the decisions without executive meddling.

Making decisions based on knowledge sometimes takes longer then making a snap decision, but the reverse is far more costly when the decisions you make are wrong, damaging or only addressing the symptoms and not causes.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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