Moments of Clarity

It’s coming up on two years since my cycling trip across Canada. This time of year, with the snow finally melted and the weather warming nicely I get that tug pulling me back out on the road. Writing this blog to refer back to every now and then was smartest thing I could have done. It brings back vivid memories and all of the insights and revelations from the trip.

One of those “ah ha” moments came from the numerous and varied restaurants I went to along the way, and that simple, yet common final moment of appreciation know as “leaving a tip”.

It struck me that every role in a company impacts customer service. It’s intuitive to think it’s customer-facing employees that create happy customers. But that interaction between a customer facing employee and the customer is only the last step in a long line of decisions that impact whether that transaction is a good one or not.

Let’s use the restaurant business as an example. You could have the friendliest and most competent server, but if the food is lacking that interaction wasn’t a good one. Similarly, they could have great food, but a disorganized waiting staff, or unkept surroundings, or the entertainment was late. At the end of the day, every role in running a restaurant, from the chefs to the cleaning staff to the accountant the shift supervisor to the waiting staff – contributes to its success.

I argue this holds true for any business, whether 5 or 5000 employees; understanding the role everyone in the company plays in providing excellent customer service is critical. If your products are too diverse (your menu is too complex) your team (i.e. your chefs) will have a difficult time delivering them in a high quality fashion.

It also dawned on me how “simple” it is to run a business and at the same time how easy it is to screw it up. There are only four areas to focus on: pleasing your customers; keeping your employees happy and engaged; staying profitable; and, growing.

Yet so many businesses make decisions that sacrifice one for another. For example, they cut costs at the expense of customer service; they grow too fast and burn out their employees, they try to please customers but at the expense of being profitable.

The key is to focus on improving one or more areas without sacrificing another. It’s not hard to find projects that improve one or more area, or even all of the areas at once. For example, are there processes you can improve that will result in better customer service, happier employees and reduce costs all at the same time? Of course there are. Seek them out.

I’m not saying running a business is easy, of course it isn’t, but with each decision you make, at any level of your company, consider whether that decision will keep your customers happy, your employees engaged, your business growing and profitable.

You’re probably asking “what the heck does this have with cycle touring”? Only that when you’re sitting in the saddle for 10-12 hours per day you have a lot of time to think. As well, the fresh air and exercise adds up to moments of extreme clarity. That’s just another one of the benefits of cycling.