Monday, April 11, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** Service Game

Service Game
By Gil C. Schmidt

There are plenty of business metaphors out there, most notably “business is war.” The problem with that mindset is that, in war, second place is just awful. The whole metaphor makes business seem like a bloody battle, one where aggression and dominance are keys to victory.

But in terms of service, how do feelings of aggression and dominance help improve service? It’s obvious that they don’t: we hate pushy salespeople and snide waitresses. Because of this, “service metaphors” have focused on “good feelings” which are often in conflict with the “competitive” nature of business.

And it doesn’t help at all when the phrase “Nice guys finish last” is heard often.

Is there a way for “nice” to finish first? There has to be, for there are plenty of businesses that thrive on being nice and waxing their competition because they are nice. One of the easiest ways to do this is to literally focus on the idea of “service as a game.”

It doesn’t matter what business you are in, with a little imagination and a touch of discipline, you can create a simple game where the goal is excellent service. First of all, by “creating the game,” you are acknowledging the central role good service plays in your business success. Second, you are providing a flexible focus that says that service is important, but also enjoyable (nobody “works” at a game.) Third, you are establishing a system that can be shared with other employees so that the game becomes an additional shared experience.

Here are some examples of “service games”:

• A beauty salon established a daily “good story” game. Each beautician would comment on a news item and “the winner” was the item or topic that garnered the most attention. Benefit: more clients and increased revenue-per-client.
• A restaurant played a “tipping game.” Every waiter and waitress scored points for every table that earned a 15% tip, with more points for higher-percentage tips. “High scorer” for the night won a small prize, paid for by the others. Benefit: Restaurant sales rose 35% while the average tip rose from 12% to 19%.
• A hardware store began a “One Trip Guarantee” game, where the store’s personnel made sure to ask questions about the client’s need to ensure he or she had everything they needed to do the job right. Return customers (for needed items) were counted as “strikes” and any person who “struck out” had to buy coffee for the rest of the group. The game added a “7-day rule,” that meant that after 7 days without a “strike,” an employee could “erase” a previous strike. Benefit: despite increased competition, the hardware store saw sales rise 44% and sharing the game with other stores in the company had similar results.

People often complain that work is dreary, stressful and lacks a true challenge. Change all that by creating a game that rewards good service, is easy to track and can become part of the daily routine. Notice also that the examples aren’t based on big rewards, but are strong on recognition: we love to play and we love the attention of being a winner. These are good things to count on for the success of your business.


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