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This week’s focus: When I go to the gym and lift weights – which, believe it or not, I do from time to time! – there comes a point where I simply can no longer lift the bar. The decline in my performance doesn’t come on gradually; instead, it’s almost like an off switch has been clicked. One minute I can lift, the next my body has given up completely. My ability to lift collapses at this breaking point.

Dramatic breaking points affect organisational performance, too. I once worked with the valet team at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in the USA. The team performed brilliantly most of the time, but when demand reached a certain level, such as Sunday lunchtime, their performance collapsed as dramatically as my lifting technique and, as a result, cars were backed up along the hotel’s driveway. You can often see this effect in busy shops, too, when a queue can rapidly form at peak times, even though all the tills seem to be staffed, or at restaurants when, at busy periods, you wait seemingly forever for your meal.

There are three solutions to improving the breaking point of your key customer services: increase capacity (e.g. the number of people in the team), enhance the capability of the team or system, or improve its organisation and management. If you ask the team, the chances are they’ll ask for more resource, while most managers look to improve the capability of the system (either training or systems development) as the way forward.

In my experience, however, it is the third option, improving the organisation and management of the team, that has the biggest and quickest impact on performance. At the Ritz-Carlton, for instance, we established clear roles for all the team members, and appointed a ‘captain’ to marshall the team at peak times. These two actions had an immediate and dramatic impact on performance and the peak-time queues were no longer an issue for the hotel’s guests.

How about you? What’s the breaking point of your key services, and how could you better organise and manage the points of peak demand to deliver a better customer experience?

Off the record: 19th Nervous Breakdown by The Rolling Stones

You better stop

Look around

Here it comes, here it comes

Here it comes, here it comes

Here comes your 19th nervous breakdown

© Stuart Cross 2016. All rights reserved.