This week’s riff: A couple of weeks ago we moved house. It’s our first move in 20 years and the process has been, in the words of our eldest son, ‘total mayhem’!

Our new house has been undergoing renovation for the last 9 months and, as a result of all the building work, the garden is trashed. Consequently, I have been taking the lead in creating a new lawn – all 1,000 square metres of it!

Together with my boys, I have moved 50 tons of top soil, raked it, graded it, removed any stones and weeds and then spread new grass seed. One of the big jobs I had to do with the soil was to remove the lumps. Our landscaping guy gave me a crash course in raking the garden and bashed some lumps with the back of the rake to show me how to do it.

The problem is that the process of bashing is quite long and laborious and led to several large and painful blisters appearing on my hands. I moaned about this to my wife – in a very manful way, of course! She replied, almost immediately, by asking why I didn’t just get rid of the lumps by kicking them, and then proceeded to use the back of her heel to destroy a group of lumps in a matter of seconds. Silently, and slightly sullenly, I started to kick the remaining lumps, removing them quickly and, believe me, painlessly.

I was looking at my recovering hands yesterday morning as I listened to Andrew Stephenson, the People Director of Lookers plc, describe his efforts at DFS to improve customer satisfaction. His work, validated by the University of Staffordshire, demonstrated that the key drivers of service satisfaction for DFS were factors such as a pleasant greeting for customers, asking customers politely what they’re after and making sure customers were asked if they’d like to buy the sofa at hand.

Many business leaders make the pursuit of customer service like my approach to soil lump removal. Retailers installing tablet computers for customers to use, having fancy flooring, or offering a range of teas and coffees may all sound exciting, but they’re most likely to create corporate blisters than they are genuine improvements in customer service and satisfaction.

Where could your business focus its efforts on improving customer service where it really counts, rather than over-investing your effort and time on factors that are likely to lead to blisters instead of results?


Off The Record: This Hard Land by Bruce Springsteen

Hey there, mister, can you tell me what happened to the seeds I’ve sown?

Can you give me a reason, sir, as to why they’ve never grown?

They’ve just blown around, from town to town

Till they’re back out on these fields

Where they fall from my hand

Back into the dirt of this hard land


© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.