Excellence on the last mile
My ‘just over a year old’ Blackberry had some problem which took me to Vodafone retail outlet. The store looked amazing. As good if not better than most of their stores around the world. However once I got inside, the service was shoddy to say the least. The people at the store didn’t know what they were talking about. The senior representative who knew a little about the Blackberry was not in office on both my visits (both well within regular Goan working hours). This experience at the store got me thinking. Vodafone is a company that defines excellence in so many ways. Their advertising is cutting edge. They have beautifully cultivated an image/perception of the brand through their mass media campaigns (really like their new campaign with those little ZooZoos). They always come up with some great value added services for their customers. In my mind, Vodafone (Hutch & Orange previously) had a lot of things sorted. However on the last mile (at their stores) the service experience was poor. Do we businesspeople not pay enough attention to the last mile?(My Businesses included). Are we as fanatic about the last mile as we are about our advertising, branding or finances?
What is the BUSINESS LAST MILE?
1. The Customer Care Executives rendered at Vodafone/Reliance store.
2. Sales Executives & Client Servicing Executives.
3. The Waiters at a Café or a Restaurant
4. Service Engineers from my own IT business.
5. Courier Delivery Representative.
6. Call Center Executive.
Basically, anyone who is in touch with the customer. Anyone who fronts your organization. Cause in spite of having a great couple of layers of managerial talent, it’s often the last mile that irks people, that makes the experience unpleasant and that which makes you lose your customer. It’s the last mile that makes or breaks businesses.
Of the top of my head, which companies have had a consistent great last mile?
1. The American Fast Food Chains – McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hard Rock Café
In all my years of eating at these restaurants (partly responsible for my growing waist), the experience on the last mile has always been exceptional (absolutely no excuse for eating unhealthy). It’s a standard experience...but a good one. That’s really commendable considering the thousands of restaurants they run all over the world. These companies have also mastered the art of converting internal company standards to customer deliverables which keeps their people on their toes. Offers like “30 Minutes Varna Free” from Domino’s make for excellent punch lines in their advertising campaigns besides pushing their people to deliver on the last mile.
2. Just Dial
Just Dial has used technology to make the last mile experience extremely pleasurable. The executives are well trained & the technology makes the process of servicing the customer idiot proof.
Possible solutions for Last Mile Excellence (All of which are a challenge to execute).
1. Hire Better People – Pay more attention to the process of hiring on the last mile…cause its often the most neglected part of hiring. Hire for attitude & aptitude in that order.
2. Paying People more money on the last mile – we’ll pay our managers that extra bit but not the customer fronting people cause we don’t see their value add and we attribute very little importance to the skills required on the last mile. The other reason is the sheer economics of the business. Paying people on the last mile would shave off the bottom lines – that is a risk most companies are not willing to take.
3. Prioritizing the last mile – Concentrate on the last mile all the time. Let it always be at the top of our mind in meetings at all levels.
4. Constant Training – Training helps and how.
5. Constant Auditing of the last mile – put the CEO out on the field. As a customer with a problem. Check the efficacy of the last mile on surprise visits.
I’m trying to change the last mile experience in my organizations and I know for sure it’s not an easy or overnight job. Its pain staking… the cost of the hiring & paying better puts a strain on immediate bottom lines…but hopefully should add to it in years to come.