What’s the last mile worth to you?
The term ‘last mile’ is a phrase used by the telecommunications and internet industries, which refers to the final leg of the network. It is the copper wire subscriber line connecting your phone line to the local telephone exchange, for example.
I think ‘the last mile’ however, is something just as applicable outside of copper wires.
Most of us, if asked and if they were to ponder on this, would probably agree, that given a choice, they would choose to take an integrated approach to delivering smooth, efficient products and services. Most would find the question nonsensical. But of course – who wouldn’t, right? Most of us would argue that when doing something, we should do it well. Get in there, give it our 100 percent.
Yet, every day, we see varied examples of how this is not so, in the world around us.
The grumpy checkout person who is processing our groceries slowly, moodily.
The cashier who is next to the customer service counter who chooses to dismiss you and point you towards the customer service desk agent in the next chair, without looking up at you.
The waitress who stands slumped almost, looking thoroughly bored next to an empty table, who sees you enter the restaurant and chooses to look right past you, doing nothing.
The post office clerk who puts the ‘Out to lunch’ sign up on her desk as you approach when your ticket number is called.
Do we really need to own the business, to know what we need to do even if we don’t know what we need to know?
Are business owners the only ones who are truly engaged?
Should we really work hard at driving engagement levels or should we just start again with hiring engaged, passionate people instead?
How much does engagement go beyond the monetary element and if so, why does money play such a huge part in reward strategies?
It is the entrepreneur, of big or small businesses, who get the big picture and understand the critical nature of execution. For entrepreneurs, it is all about execution.
Big plans or small plans, grand moves or pullbacks, beg/borrow/steal or venture capital funding, they find a way to make it happen.
They are invested, they are passionate, they are driven, beyond exhaustion and late nights, to a point beyond what they see in front of them.
They are moved by their belief, their expectation of what their effort will bring in, their understanding of sweat equity needed before the big bucks roll in.
It is the employee who needs to be engaged.
It is the employee who needs a talent management framework crafted, a succession plan drawn up, a career pathway envisioned.
It is the employee who needs to be kept abreast of decisions by management and who wants to be part of the big picture developments.
It is the employee who doesn’t always get the big picture, who is somehow not able to put the pieces together, whether through fault of their own or not.
It is the employee who wants to know what is in it for them before they find a way to make it happen.
It is the employer who wants to create higher levels of engagement, yet keep the whip cracking to ensure everyone toes the line.
It is the employer who wants to be inclusive, yet holds back on key information with their staff as they are worried about potential eventualities if this should leak out.
It is the employer who gets the big picture but expects the difference between the goal and the end result to be minimal.
It is the employer who wants to see commitment, drive and passion yet will fire an employee at the drop of a hat to make 20 cents on the dollar.
What’s the last mile to me? It is about going the whole way. If you are going to do something, do it well and do it right.
You invest great sums of money to calibrate and figure out what you want. You spend even more money recruiting the best talent there is.
Let them do the job you brought them in to do. Work the plan with them, create a shared goal and then let them run with it – Don’t. Micromanage. Every. Single. Element.
If you believe that customer service is front facing and critical to your success, develop a plan that reflects that.
If you have a restaurant or other kind of business, have a Standard Operating Practices Manual. Share it, gather feedback on it, own it and then enforce it.
If you blow your marketing budget and drop your prices for one month, ensure your call centre can handle the volume of calls expected. Ensure your people on the ground are smiling and happy to wave in the throngs awaiting at your door.
If you expect huge volumes of sales, make sure your ground support and logistics can handle this. Follow through so that the carry forward of the service appears seamless, thorough in planning and detail and effortless looking. Success is therefore a given.
Granted, we cannot be this at all times.
You might be short handed with absent crew this week.
You might be having to train new recruits who are unsure of what they are doing but eager to please.
You may be working on your plan to get to this point but it is a three stage process in which you have only just started.
In these cases, the desire is there but the results will take time.
Be clear about where things lie and have a plan and timeline for addressing this.
In the final analysis, it may be that the last mile is what determines the entire experience.
It may well be that a well thought out strategy could be easily brought down in the final leg and with no one’s notice.
Broadband capability may be provided but if you have low grade copper wiring to your door, broadband access may indeed be a running joke.
What does the last mile represent for you?