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William is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Department of Business Administration and Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is fascinated by research around how individuals construct and create their social realities, intrigued with the powers of creativity and innovation, and an avid proponent of outstanding service experiences. When not teaching, writing, or researching, he tries to spend time with his family and occasionally paint. He is currently completing his PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I have seen the ‘Best-Stop’ & it is good!

If you’ve been following my thoughts over the last few months, you know that I’m a huge fan of amazing customer service. Customers should be THE primary focus of your business. Service providers must listen and respond authentically; your business must truly give a crap about each and every person who you have the potential of interacting with.

I believe that the humanization of commerce is the next era in business development.

Of course, the humanization of business isn’t just about amazing face to face service. That would be far too simplistic for business success. Every part of our business needs to think ‘customer first’. Key parts of this include the physical structure, infrastructure and design. 

I’ve just returned from a decent size road trip with my family (two adults, two kids under six years old) of 3400+ km over four days, During that trip, I repeatedly encountered parts of the service equation that are most essential to road warriors. The rest stop.clip_image001

Over the last four years, the province of Ontario has invested in the construction of new, modern and standardized service centres called “ONroute”. As the leased properties of older service centres along both Highways 401 & 400 have come up, the Ontario government has been replacing the old, eclectic, out-dated service centres with standardized modern facilities.

These are the services designed into each of the stations:
  • Parking lots that are consistent and simple to navigate
  • Gas pumps with hoses designed to reach both sides of your car (no more waiting in line for the pump on the correct side)
  • Environmentally friendly buildings, utilizing water free urinals, low consumption toilets and the coolest touchless hand dryers I’ve seen in a long time!
  • Designated rest and exercise areas of pets; no more trying to walk Fido around the old tiny grass perimeters
  • A design that allows for natural lighting to be provided to 75% of all areas
You might wonder why I would be so excited about service centres. Here’s why. Millions of tourists travel the highways of Ontario every year. Millions of tourists require fuel, food and facilities during their trip. Service centres can be staffed with the nicest people under heaven, but if the bathroom is dirty and broken down, every stop becomes a disgusting experience, a punishment for participating in the necessary and predictable exchange of food and fluids.

Now, in Ontario, the infrastructure has become clean, fresh and modern. I actually looked forward to making a stop just so that I could marvel at all the thought put into these facilities. After travelling through three other provinces to return home, I think other provinces could learn a huge lesson here. Investment in facilities sends a clear message to your customers: we want your travel dollars, appreciate your needs on the road, and are willing to service you to the very best of our abilities.

The government of Ontario listened to their customers. Then they actually did something about it. Well done!

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