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Traditional business benchmarking is a high-level activity with careful target selection, substantial pre-visit planning, and a rigorous process of post-visit evaluation and implementation. You can do this, too. But don’t let a thorough and detailed approach stop you from encouraging a much simpler version of benchmarking. Remember, one of the goals is for everyone to become curious about learning and improving.
Each phone call can be a benchmarking moment. Did the person you were speaking with make you feel appreciated, welcome, confident, or understood? What did he or she say? How did he or she do that? Can you use that in your next call? Each incoming email is one to evaluate and emulate if it moves you to positive action. Each meeting is a possible benchmarking moment, another opportunity to appreciate, adapt, and apply.
An easy way to start benchmarking is to have people inside your organization learn from visiting each other. Is your customer service team known for its friendliness and flexibility? Ask the finance team to make a benchmarking visit. Are your finance team members respected for their accuracy and speed? Ask the delivery team to make a benchmarking visit. Is any one branch, factory, or outlet admired by everyone else? Ask that group to extend an invitation and welcome frequent visits from its peers.
When you organize a visit to an outside organization, include people from different levels in your organization. Those who work on the front line may not understand certain details those in higher positions do, but they will see things from a different perspective, often with insights of equal value.
A membership club I frequent features the restaurants, pools, tennis courts, and other facilities you would naturally expect to find. But the Service Benchmarking process is one I have not found anywhere else in the world. During the orientation of new team members, participants are paired up. Each pair is assigned to benchmark one of the nearby five-star hotels where some of the world’s highest service standards are on display. They are asked to visit the hotel and to return four hours later, after enjoying a treat in the hotel’s coffee shop.
Before the pairs depart, everyone reviews the benchmarking assignment. Each team must discover where the hotel excels and where it could improve:
1. Observe the hotel carefully from the outside. What looks terrific? What needs to be improved?
2. Approach the hotel. How are you greeted?
3. Enter the lobby and walk around. Are you welcomed and offered help?
4. Find the house phone. Ask the operator for a restaurant recommendation. Ask what time the restaurant opens for dinner. Ask what is the soup of the day?
5. Find the lobby shop and ask where you can buy a bouquet of flowers.
6. Go to the coffee shop. Enjoy a drink and a snack while observing carefully every moment of the service.
7. Discuss your experience with your partner. Take notes during your visit when you can.
8. Be ready to share with the group: What was most impressive? What did you find surprising? What could still be improved? What did you learn that could be applied here at our membership club?
Imagine the impact of this visit during someone’s first few days on the job, comparing service experiences with some of the best in the world. New employees are asked to explore and think; they are trusted to evaluate, compare, and recommend. This experience itself is a benchmark. How could you adapt and apply it?