This week’s focus: Around four inches. That seems to be the amount of snow that’s necessary to ‘break’ the UK’s road and rail infrastructure. This week’s cold blast has brought snow, freezing temperatures and a ‘refreshing’ easterly wind to the country – and it hasn’t been able to cope too well. Roads are blocked, schools are shut and many trains are cancelled. Other countries that are more used to such conditions have a much higher breaking point, but the point at which snow turns from being an inconvenience to a destroyer of the nation’s way of life seems to be around four inches.

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 this week’s rail timetable and, as a result, cars were backed up along the hotel’s driveway and onto the road. 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 nineteenth nervous breakdown


© Stuart Cross 2018. All rights reserved.