There’s nothing more annoying when you are trying to deliver a service than a member of the public who wants something different. For example, you are trying to deliver a standard housing benefits service and someone doesn’t understand the form. Or a benefit claimant changes the number of hours they work, splits up with their partner suddenly or starts to study part-time – all of which could mess up your standard claims process. Not good. Or you might be running a cafe and someone asks for the bill to be brought quickly because they are in a hurry. Again, a nightmare when your staff have been trained to put the bill and mints on a silver plate and deliver it to the table. Worse, someone goes into a doctor’s surgery and asks for an urgent appointment the next day when they should know that this doesn’t fit the standard procedure. Just a few awkward people spoiling it for everyone else.
If you make your customers all the same, it will be much easier for you to deal with them. You will be able to tailor your customers to your standard processes. This goes for public services as well as businesses. Here’s how to do it:
- Work with the government to ensure people are encouraged to be like each other. This should start in schools. Iron out all anomalies at this stage, otherwise differences could cause problems for services organisations later on.
- Work with adult education providers to make sure all adults are equally able to use telephones, fill in forms, use websites and understand instructions. You may also need to work with health providers and medical researchers to make sure everyone is mentally and physically at the same level.
- Make it very clear in all promotional material that any request outside your standard service will not be catered for.
- Treat every customer exactly the same, regardless of their context. This sends out the right message.
- Ensure you attract only customers who are good on the phone and on the internet because this is the future of service.
- Terminate service for any customers who show signs of deviation from your standard service in your first contact with them.
- Add extra fees if a customer does attempt to deviate from the standard service.
- If a customer ‘complains’, ignore it. Complainers are almost certainly those who tried (and hopefully failed!) to deviate from the standard service.
- Incentivize staff to stick rigidly to standard scripts and forms. Punish staff who give customers what they need.
- Divert customers who don’t understand any aspect of your service to the FAQs on your website.
- NEVER give customers the option to see or speak to a human being. This could encourage staff to make allowances.
- Educate your customers so they understand why asking for something outside the standard service causes you problems. It is important that they see things from your point of view. After all, the service isn’t all about them.
Organisations that follow these guidelines should find things start to run a bit more smoothly.
However, if you are a business and demand for your service is complex and varying, you will find your customers won’t return. Nor will they have a good word to say about you. You will also lose money fast and will go out of business very quickly unless there is no competition or you have a lot of money in the bank.
If you are a public service and your demand is complex and varying, there is no need to worry. Tax payers don’t have any choice. People will complain, but you can use another standard procedure to deal with this.
If, alternatively, you care about human beings and want to run a great public service or a brilliant profit-making business, do this instead. Get rid of all standardised processes, scripts and complicated forms and instead, give your staff the flexibility to give customers what they need straight away. You will find your costs plummet and satisfaction soars.