Where Has Service Gone? #5

Too Big- Large companies are typically not as good as small ones at consistently providing memorable experiences. Malcolm Gladwell devotes a chapter to this subject in his excellent book, The Tipping Point, in which he refers to the phenomenon as “the rule of 150”. He illustrates that once an organization, club, culture or community hits 150 people, it changes…because the inhabitants, faced with too many choices, can no longer focus on the development of meaningful relationships with each other. Hence, the organization splinters into sub-groups working independently from another. This is a powerful concept as it relates to providing memorable service and the adaptation principle I wrote about previously.

Assuming that you are not an organization of one (where the problem of “big” certainly doesn’t apply), the critical component to successful adaptation is the transfer of new knowledge to others in the company. Without this transfer, anything learned is dead, and likewise is the process of enhancing the guest experience. In large companies, the transfer of this valuable information is either interrupted or delayed to the point where it just takes too long to work effectively. For instance, if Mr. Johnson is allergic to nuts, it’s likely that the restaurant staff may know, but far less probable that housekeeping ever gets this vital information. So, who removes the nuts from the mini bar? Yes, Mr. Johnson knows not to eat the nuts in the mini bar. But, if they were removed and replaced with his favorite chocolate bar, he’ll likely notice…and remember. Smaller groups and smaller environments usually foster better teamwork and more effective communication. That simply leads to more adaptive and better service.

The other issue typical of bigger companies is the size of management. “Too many chiefs” as they say, who are interested in controlling every touch-point and customer interaction leaving the line staff powerless to adapt and “think on their feet”.

So, if the company is getting bigger, break it down into smaller more manageable pieces, flatten-out the organization, hire great people, and let them be part of the evolutionary “process”.