Service Smackdown 3: Olympic Special Part 2 – the service legacy

So now the dust has settled on London 2012 and, with a bit of distance, we can try to take some lessons from the event and see what makes for a great customer experience every time, not just at a once-in-a-lifetime event. Here’s my take on what worked and what we can learn…

People, lots of them

I’ve said before that it really helps if you have people available to help people. London 2012 did this almost to excess but it did mean that wherever you looked a Games Maker was easily found. (This can work the other way – I once mystery-shopped a bank branch where their floor walkers were lined up in an intimidating line barring the way to the counter service…).

So, lesson 1 – put plenty of people on the front line. Yes, I know these were volunteers and that most businesses don’t have the equivalent of a front line workforce who will work long hours for a couple of pairs of trainers and the privilege of being involved, but with a bit of creativity a similar effect can be obtained. Some suggestions:

Redirect staff to the front line at busy times – I’ll admit this isn’t the most insightful or original suggestion but where resources are tight can more people be deployed on the front line to cope with busy periods? My sense is that the demarcation between front and back offices may be too rigid.

Volunteers/self-help – as you can see from on-line help forums the world is full of people who want to offer their help and advice. A few years back I sponsored a project that enabled BT to capture its customers’ guidance to enhance the help provided to customers. A similar system is still in use today. This enthusiasm is a free resource – does your company make enough use of it?

Customers’ needs are recognised

Having people around goes hand in hand with being able to cope with people’s needs: in our case the problems with accessibility. This does seem to have been thought through both in terms of organisation and the attitude of the Games Makers.

Lesson 2 – are all your customer needs recognised and catered for? And if so, are the front-line staff knowledgeable enough to be able to respond to people’s needs? Accessibility is an obvious category for an event taking place at a large venue– and there are many posts I could write on this topic alone – but customers will have other specific needs: the job of a company committed to superior service is to understand and act on these.

If you could just bottle it…

Enthusiasm – we’ve all discovered a little bit more than we thought we had for sport, for success, for Danny Boyle, Andy Murray, Usain Bolt, Mo (especially Mo!) and all the rest over the past couple of weeks. For a while it looked like capturing and capitalising on this  feel-good factor was going to be a bit of a national obsession and whilst it may – though hopefully not – decline as the weather and the economy both deteriorate, for companies who are serious about service, capturing that magic ‘X-factor’ should be an ongoing obsession. In an earlier post I wrote about finding the passion for whatyou do. Volunteers at 2012 weren’t excessively passionate, just cheerful and enthusiastic, and that was enough to get them rave reviews from just about everyone.

Lesson 3 – you’ve got to generate it to bottle it. I’m glad to say that some companies – Pret A Manger is the example that springs to mind but there are others – do make a point of hiring people who can be at least cheerful in delivering service to customers. And enthusiasm should come from the top – or at least from the key senior stakeholders. And I guess this is where London 2012 has a great advantage – Lord Coe certainly wasn’t short of commitment and enthusiasm for the task but once the athletes got going and Team GB looked like exceeding expectations then the enthusiasm became infectious at all levels. Outside of sport the same applies: you need success, you need to celebrate that success but before that you need ambition and dedication. If your business doesn’t have those, then Gold medal customer service is going to be impossible to deliver.