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On Marketing: It's time to up our customer service game

by JOsh Gordon Published: August 24, 2016 4:10 PM

Have you ever heard of something called "Parkinson's Law?"

If so, we are going to discuss how it relates to modern customer service.

If you aren't familiar with Parkinson's Law, it helps us understand the interplay between the effort a task takes and the time a task takes.

Here's an example to help illustrate the law.

Let's say you are told to get a new customer set up in your system. You are asked at 2 o'clock and must have it complete by the end of the day. Now, it usually takes an hour to get a customer set up. But since you have three hours until the due date, guess how long it takes you? You guessed it -- three hours.

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Here is how we will structure our time in these three hours -- one hour surfing YouTube, 30 minutes on our personal email, another 30 on Facebook, and another 30 chatting it up with a coworker about who we would rely on the most in case of a Zombie Apocalypse (I don't make the cut / too many allergies). Then we will freak out because we only have 30 minutes left, rush, and get it done.

Here's what the law means -- the more time we have to complete something, the less effort we exert. The inverse is also true. The less time we have to do something, the more effort it requires to get it done on time.

So, why does Parkinson's Law matter? Because it's followed all the time in your business, every day. And our natural reflex to abide by Parkinson's Law is preventing us from advancing the practice of customer service and helping our business stand out from the crowd.

I recently stayed at a very nice hotel/resort on business. One day I had a presentation to make, and then in the afternoon I decided to enjoy an activity on campus -- horseback riding.

It was my first (and last) experience horseback riding, and I was given a horse that was supposedly okay with that. While the horse was okay with my lack of experience, it turns out he didn't really care for birds. When birds flew by, my horse was spooked!

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I returned to the stables and, after my adrenaline wore off, I noticed that I had hives on my neck and all up and down my arms. My allergies were kicking it! I didn't have an allergy pill with me, so a front desk inquiry was made for a pill. I also needed my sheets changed (which now had horse hair on them since I laid down when I got back to my room).

Three minutes later there was a knock at the door with someone ready to change my bed. Seven minutes after that, another knock. As I opened the door I saw the front desk worker with a silver tray containing a package of allergy pills. The person holding the tray then also relayed specific instructions from a pharmacist.

Twenty minutes later my allergy attack was gone, my demeanor restored, and my bed ready for worry-free rest.

The morale of this story? Great customer service is essential to every business. But, it requires effort. If it's easy and quick to serve the customer, most of us will do it. If it's more challenging and time-consuming, we won't.

But, we can do better. Like my experience at the hotel/resort.

Now that school is back in session, how about some homework? Book a night in a five-star hotel. Your business is worth it, so make the investment. Then think about what your expectations of the service and the overall experience area, knowing the hotel is a five star. Then, during your stay, pay close attention to how the staff interacts with you, the ease of the experience at this hotel, and how they respond if something is not up to the standard of your expectations.

On the way back from your stay, think about what you observed and how it might apply in your business.

Any old business can satisfy its customers by strictly following Parkinson's Law. Delighting your customers -- far exceeding their expectations -- is time-consuming. If delight is our goal (and it should be), then Parkinson's Law is a law worth breaking.

Josh Gordon is an award-winning marketing communications professional and President of Full Spectrum Marketing, a full-service advertising agency with digital roots based in Kent, Ohio and Wooster, Ohio. You can reach Josh at jgordon@fullspectrummarketing.com.


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