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What’s a safe corner to cut?

An opened pair of blue scissors

What aspect of your service changes when you get busy? If you don’t have a clear agreement on your team about which corners get “cut”, you may create a very inconsistent and difficult customer (and employee) experience.

Imagine an emergency room that’s really slow, only one patient there for the morning.

What will their experience be like? It will probably be different than if the place is packed with emergency guests.

The doctors may have time to chat more. To explain what’s happening, or why they are waiting on a particular result from the lab. They may be able to offer you water or something from the pantry if you’re hungry. That’s unlikely to happen if they’re overwhelmed with patients.

What else might be different? The wait certainly will be different, they can see you right away. The time they take to prep and clean up the room might be better, because more staff will be available to help.

Taken from another perspective, what things will be the same regardless of how busy they are? For one, the medical staff will almost certainly try to provide the very best medical care. The quality of their work product is something they will likely not compromise: they want you in a non-emergency situation and on your way to recovery.

When things get difficult, they cut a ton of corners: the wait times are abysmal, they don’t tell you when you’re next, they don’t communicate nearly as much as you’d like, and there’s not much friendly interactions: it’s busy, get out of the way please. Emergency rooms cut nearly every corner except the quality of their medicine. Lives are at stake, almost everything else is unimportant by comparison.

In the corporate world or in the customer service world, however, corners are more nuanced and less obvious in terms of importance. Here are aspects of a customer or professional service interaction:

  • preparation

  • project scope & definition

  • scheduling & coordination

  • completing the actual work

  • documentation

  • future planning

  • debrief and communication

  • timely invoicing

How often have you cut corners on more than one of these aspects of your work? Internal teams bemoan a lack of documentation. That’s because some of their people think it’s an acceptable corner to cut. Other people take no time for future planning, instead saying “I gotta get to my next appointment, we’re so busy”.

If you agree on which corners your team will cut when times get busy, you’ll probably do much better as a group than if people choose to cut their own corners. Imagine a busy restaurant that has a long line, followed by a waitress rushing providing inconsistent service while a chef rushes the cooking of the poultry and the bill gets brought to your table 15 minutes after you’ve already finished the meal. Probably not going back, right? But imagine the same restaurant with a long line, but everything inside is amazing from the service to the food to the speed of receiving your bill. That sounds pretty nice once you get seated. The only corner they cut is the wait. That’s all. And in the process, it creates a feeling of scarcity or luck or a “that place is impossible to get a table” reputation. And then instead of a nightmare scenario, it’s the “hot place in town”. Because they agreed on a very small number of corners they would cut.

Every business has to cut corners. Choose yours together so you (and your customers) know exactly what to expect.

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