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Don't Mistake Speed For Efficiency In Customer Service

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It's Friday night and weather at Newark has caused another flight cancellation. The lines are long, but the staff is excellent and moving through the line quickly.

And then I find out why. As pleasant, compassionate and friendly as they are, they are singularly focused on serving the customer quickly; yet not efficiently.

It makes me wonder how they are evaluated. Are they measured by speed? If so, then I understand why airline stocks are such a dangerous buy.

Speed is not the only way to evaluate efficiency.

My flight was re-booked for early Saturday morning, taking three connections and getting me home late afternoon -- on another airline!

WHAT?

There are times that speed is the most important way to measure your efficiency, but not the only way to measure. Most important -- but not only!

When I asked why she wasn't rebooking me on her airline, she said, "I don't know." I pulled open my app, showed her a simple flight home for me, arriving four hours earlier than the competition. And that wouldn't cost her airline anything.

Michelle looked at me like I was a genius.

Does your company push for speed? Do you measure productivity, and not look at exactly how things are getting done? Have we become so lost in what we think is efficient that we are putting ourselves out of business?

Is delivering a meal undercooked efficient? Is cutting corners to ensure fast construction in your construction company efficient? Is measuring your call centre on how fast they get through the line the right measurement?

No, it is not.

When you are measuring your efficiency, speed is not the only qualifier. Think of the money that the airline was potentially losing by sending me on another airline (the cost of the ticket going to the competition).

Think of the potential consequence of me flying another airline -- what if I preferred this other airline once I had a chance to try it? Think of the consequence of annoying your top-tier customers (which I am, and I certainly don't want nor need to earn points on another airline).

There are times that speed is the most important way to measure your efficiency, but not the only way to measure. Most important -- but not only!

When I'm standing in line to buy my coffee, I want the line to be quick. However, it does need to be good coffee, you do need to get my order right, and I need to feel like I, as a customer, matter. Speed is important in my purchase, but not the only aspect I measure as a customer.

My husband and I were in a restaurant on Sunday where the food was good, but the service was fantastic. Our server was highly efficient, and at no point did I feel like I was at a fast food restaurant and was rushed out.

When we asked the server a question about the fries, she told us a story instead of answering the question with a simple yes or no. That story took 90 seconds at the most, and I thought she answered it perfectly. A quick yes or no answer wouldn't have had the same affect on me at all.

Customer service matters in efficiency. Attitude, accuracy and empathy matter. Smart systems, processes and deliveries matter.

Have a look at how you evaluate your efficiency in your workplace. Are you focused on speed exclusively? Are you sure that your systems, processes and deliveries are working for you? Get the perfect balance and your organization will be efficient in the eyes of your customer.

You don't win the Amazing Race by being the fastest if you don't do the tasks properly. You don't win your stockholder's affection by a short-term stock result when your company is putting itself in danger over the long term.

"Direction is so much more important than speed. Many are going nowhere fast."--Unknown
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