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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, November 28, 2012

A thought on service: "Does your coffee cup fit?"


Last week, I was on the road for business. Five hotels in five days meant that I saw a wide range of facilities and met a lot of people. From simple to fancy, happy to apathetic, you see quite the variety over the period of a week.

When I wake up in a hotel, it doesn't matter what hotel, I normally need coffee. See, I don’t sleep well in hotels when I travel on my own. After close to 20 years of marriage, I sleep well when my wife is lying beside me and after I've checked one last time at night that the kids are comfortable in their beds. My body doesn't understand alone – and I'm perfectly alright about that. This being the case, to me, coffee in the morning in a hotel room is very important.

Every hotel seems to offer a different in-room coffee experience. Some have the older classic two-cup pots; others have upped their game with single serve Keurig machines. In one of the rooms I camped out in, they had a low tech, single cup machine. To add ‘value’, they provided take out cups. No mugs, just the to-go cups. Fine – a trade-off to keep the coffee station simple. I can live with trade-offs.

Unfortunately, all this good intention was scuppered by one small detail. 

The to-go cups were too tall to fit into the coffee maker.

Yes. The one vessel in the entire room that was put there for the sole purpose of capturing the beautiful coffee nectar as it came forth from the machine (I did say I needed coffee...) didn't fit into the machine.

I was stunned. How had no one bothered to see if the travel cup they provided, an intentional decision made most likely with the best of intentions, actually fit into the machine?

So what do I do? Being me, I change the cup and make it work. I carefully fold, twist and crush the edges of that cup down until the rim is low enough to fit into the machine. Once the coffee fills the ‘modified’ vessel, I pour it into the other non-mutilated cup. I have found a solution to an operator’s problem, one that impacts the overall value of the experience.

Here is the real question. How many times have you done something for your customers with the best of intentions, say change a segment of a product or a service, but failed to check and see if it fits within the existing delivery system? Are you making decisions from the position of a disengaged operator or through the eyes and actions of a customer? 

Too many business operators think that when we preach about amazing service, we are simply putting personal interactions above product interactions. This is where you would be confused.

The second that my coffee cup doesn't fit into the coffee machine, we have a service delivery breakdown. My private interaction with the coffee cup, a product interaction, has created mental disharmony and service disappointment, a personal interaction. They are combined, intimately related and ultimately inseparable.

Service is about every moment that your customer interacts with your brand, whether that is a person or a product. Customers don’t differentiate disappointment.

So – go check. Does your coffee cup fit?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Curiousity & talent are a powerful combination

I've been teaching over a decade now and have seen a lot of students.

Some show up, some don't. Some do the work, some don't. I know the game, having been a student myself for the better part of my life. I've had the pleasure of meeting and teaching some great ones, students who have gone on to solid careers and success. I've also met my share of challenges.

Occasionally, I run across a student that pulls my attention away from the centre mass of the group. One that pulls me in a way I did not expect. One that has talent, but that's not enough. I've had many talented students, gifted to solve problems. To them, answers come easy and solutions are apparent.

But every now and again, a curious student pops up. Ah, that sweet fresh air of curiosity that blows in like a spring breeze. A curious student brushes away all the mild frustrations of those who are just going through the motions. They reignite a slow burning fire to do more. And normally they show themselves with a question.

'I'm sorry to bother you, but I have a question."

They are humble. You see, curiosity doesn't have space for ego; realizing that there is more to learn and asking questions removes all the space needed to hold onto the notion that you might know it all.

I have one such student right now, every week asking deep, well constructed questions outside of the public eye of the class. Asking me to dig a little deeper and provide a well thought out answer to topics not covered by the curriculum. Because a course outline isn't why they are here. It's the quest, the hunger to dig deeper. To ask questions because, well, there are questions to be asked.

Suffice it to say that when someone apologizes for asking for more knowledge, not only is it my job to step forward and engage; it is my pleasure. I too am a student. I too am curious and you have opened up a new lesson for us to challenge.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Caritas Day & an invitation to guest blog

Last year, I experienced my first Caritas Day here at Mount Saint Vincent University. It is a day when classes are set aside and the spirit of giving selflessly is embraced. My thoughts are that first experience were captured in the post 'When the Sisters schooled the Prof'

I am honoured this year to have been invited by Dr. Ramona Lumpkin, President of Mount Saint Vincent University, to write a guest blog for 'A View from the Mount' about Caritas Day and the importance of being socially engaged with your community.

Please take a minute to connect through and read about our traditions. Don't forget to leave a comment too!