Wet bum in New York

Yesterday we went on one of those open top jump-on-jump-off jobbies around Manhatten. We were the first pick up of the day but because it had rained briefly in the night the seats were wet.

Now, why is this relevant I hear you moan? Well, the way it was handled illustrated a widespread trap that many service providers fall into: The Tick Box Gap. This is the difference between what a person’s job description says and the way their clients actually expect to be treated. Interestingly enough the effects of the gap are usually out of proportion to the size of the gap itself.

So there we all were faced with a 45 minute coach journey experienced with decidedly damp under-kecks; and what did our noble tour guide and host do about this? Well for starters he had a big argument about it with one of the other passengers. He then took the microphone and proceeded to tell us that whilst he was sorry we had moist posteriors his job was to point out interesting sites and give us little known facts about them it was not to wipe our seats clean.

Fair enough. I am sure he was genuinely bothered by our discomfort and I am also pretty sure his job description did not include a line about drying seats after a bout of drizzle but nonetheless we did have soggy pants and my wife (Mrs Ames) was wearing cream trousers which she was convinced would be stained (they were but we all said they weren’t).

So what could he have done? He had two choices really.

  1. Knowing that it rains in New York and therefore deducing the likelihood of wet seats he could have kept some kitchen roll in his bag and before we all got on given the seats a quick wipe-over. 5 minutes absolute max.
  2. Alternatively he could have handed out a paper towel to each passenger as we boarded the bus and we could have cleaned our own seats. Easy-peasy.

So where does this take us? Well firstly I know that occasionally I concentrate on my job and the tasks I have to get done more than I do thinking about my client’s comfort and convenience – sometimes just doing the job is not good enough. I wonder if I am the only one?

Secondly, whatever our clients want, despite what our job descriptions might say,  is what we should deliver. Sometimes it is down to us and sometimes the system is just broken and needs to be fixed. Either way we need to do something.

What can we do? Well here’s a suggestion. Have a think about the way in which you interact with your clients and the service you provide to them. What things or situations could occur that would spoil the clients’ experience? Think it through and then join together with others (see my blog entry Ideas Having Sex) to identify possible danger spots that you could prepare for. Then it is just a matter of making whatever preparations and contingency plans you can (within time and budget constraints) to be ready should these possibilities actually occur.

Ultimately forethought and preparation can go a long way to heading off niggles that can turn into issues that do have a habit of turning into problems.

Was a wet bum a big deal? Not really but we didn’t leave him a tip (mostly because he was a terrible tour guide) and they missed an opportunity to differentiate themselves. It’s all in the little things you know.

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Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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Posted in Customer Service, Differentiation, excellence

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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