Sat, May 25, 2024

Providing Good Service Depends Upon Your ‘PEEPs’

As I have mentioned in previous columns, when on business or vacation travel, I cannot help but observe and evaluate the service companies that I encounter during my excursion, thanks to my background in operations management. My trip to Seattle for Thanksgiving with my wife and older daughter to visit my younger daughter for the holiday was no exception.

While the holiday was great just from the fact of our family being together for the first time since June, it was greatly enhanced by the outstanding service we received throughout our trip. As I reflect back on our experiences, I see four common elements that tended to be present in our best ones. In today’s column, I will present those elements and discuss how emphasizing them can make your company and its service delivery first-class.

Processes: The first essential element for a good service experience is for the company providing it to have top-notch processes. Excellent processes typically lead to minimal/acceptable waiting times, high-quality output, and a positive customer feeling. While a number of our experiences during our trip had well-designed processes, two in particular stood out.

The first was our dinner at a famous chain restaurant, Din Tai Fung. While there are 170 Din Tai Fung restaurants worldwide, there are only 14 in the United States, all located in the West. There are seven in California, four in the Seattle area, two in the Portland, Oregon area, and one in Las Vegas. Three more U.S. restaurants are opening soon, two in California, and its first East Coast restaurant in New York. While Din Tai Fung’s menu is dominated by its dumplings and wontons, they also have a few appetizers, greens, and Chinese noodle and rice entrees.

 Din Tai Fung’s precision process begins with an ordering process in which the customer fills out a form identifying all of the dishes that will be shared at the table. The delivery of food is presented by a veritable army of servers, who periodically bring the next set of dishes. The food comes quickly, but the customer does not feel rushed. However, Din Tai Fung does this in order to turn tables over very quickly, as they understand that their revenue is driven by maximizing the number of customers served.

The second strong process we experienced was at Seattle’s Space Needle, the city’s top tourist attraction. The Space Needle was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair. An elevator takes visitors up to a 520-foot observation area with panoramic views of downtown, Puget Sound, Mount Rainer, and surrounding mountain ranges.

 The challenge for the Space Needle is to ensure visitors can get to the observation area in a timely manner and enjoy their time there without feeling rushed. The Space Needle does this through a process which assigns visitors a time to enter the line when they buy their tickets and then constantly monitors the number of people in the observation area to determine the appropriate time to send up the next group in the elevator. This ensures the observation area is utilized to its maximum extent without it being overcrowded.

Execution: The next essential element for a good service experience is being able to execute one’s excellent processes. As a customer, it can often be difficult to distinguish between a bad process and poor execution of a good process, as it takes solid execution for a good process to succeed. However, in the case of Din Tai Fung, some of their execution is intentionally highly visible. As customers are waiting to be seated, they can observe a group of restaurant workers creating the dumplings. It is clear from watching them that they are well-trained and have had significant practice. They are able to quickly execute the dumpling-making process such that diners will be enjoying them in a timely manner. A couple of nights later, we attended a Seattle Kraken hockey game that had an attendance of over 17,000 fans.

 We were amazed at the speed and efficiency of moving fans through security and ticket scanning in the hour leading up to the start of the game. Again, it seems like a strong combination of process and execution led to short waiting times and a pleasant experience.

Extras: One of the things I have overlooked in the past when evaluating services is the extra things that services provide that are not typically included with the service. We had this happen numerous times to us in Seattle and always enriched our experience. One morning, my wife, older daughter and I were heading out from our hotel to go to a famous doughnut shop recommended by my younger daughter for coffee and doughnuts.

 However, as we were leaving the hotel, we realized that the doughnut shop would likely not have anything my gluten-sensitive wife could eat. So, we stopped in the café in the hotel and when my wife went to the counter to explain her dilemma to the man working there, he gave her a yogurt and fruit cup to go…at no charge; a pleasant surprise! In another situation, when my wife and daughters went shopping at a suburban Seattle mall, they found that a department store had a coffee bar and an alcoholic drink bar, amenities rarely found in a department store, but it was one that enhanced their shopping experience.

People: Finally, the element I have found to be most critical in the delivery by service companies is their people. One of the most important things to remember is services are experienced, not consumed, and one of the most impactful aspects of that experience is the people who provide the service. As I reflected on many of the good meals we had in Seattle, they were typically so good because of the quality of the chefs who prepared them and the competence and good cheer of the people who served them. After a long day of travel on the first day of our trip, our daughter took us to a Mexican restaurant which was within walking distance from our hotel. While the food was excellent, it was the staff who treated us like old friends that made the weariness of our day slip away. We often found that processes, their execution, and the extras were only possible because of the people charged with them.

We had a great time in Seattle, mostly due to the excellent service encounters we had throughout the trip. Those encounters were made possible due to the Processes, Execution, Extras, and People who delivered them. As you improve your business, make sure you have the right PEEPs to pull it off!

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