An unpleasant visit to a burger franchise puts our Service Manager in a pickle. He wonders, “How could the restaurant make such a whopper of a mistake?” As he expresses his woes, he assesses the deciding factors for service quality assurance.
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I recently decided to visit a well-established burger restaurant on my way to the office after a long morning meeting with a client. The franchise is my least favourite of all the burger franchises, but I was hungry and in a hurry, and convenience trumped taste.
The visit itself was rather unremarkable, but the honour of marking itself in my memory was reserved for the first bite I took: a rancid crunchiness along with a charred taste hidden in a thick layer of sauce. I decided to investigate the source of this very particular kind of evil and quickly noticed that one of the two buns was burned to a crisp. The copious amounts of sauce were probably meant as an ill-advised attempt to masquerade this wretched cooking catastrophe.
As I threw the rest of the bad burger in the garbage bin, a thought creeped upon me as to how it could have made its way to my mouth. After all, we all know that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer, than to keep an existing one. Surely this big franchise is aware of this too. And as I started thinking about it, I also started thinking about our own client projects and my work as a Service Manager. How could such a mistake have happened? Would such a severe dip in quality be possible that we too could slip up and serve a proverbial “bad burger”? Let’s look at some of the possible deciding factors for service quality.
Training and guidance
Although difficult to judge the quality of the training, the franchise claims to provide both theoretical and practical training for all its employees. They even have their own internal training center.
How well does AMPLEXOR score? Well, we do have two week onboarding bootcamps for new hires. In that training we cover not only the technology people will be working on, but also our tooling, how projects are managed, methodologies, best practices, and so on. Training and certification opportunities come up regularly to develop and strengthen the core technical competencies of our teams, or bring them up to speed on new technology updates. I’ve never personally been denied a training I proposed. We also assign a Team Lead to each employee, who’s responsible for guiding them and the first point of contact for any internal questions. Besides this, junior developers are initially always accompanied and supervised by senior colleagues.
Part of delivering quality means you standardize the process and the output of that process. The burger restaurant probably scores very well on this matter by using the ingredients and suppliers for all restaurants, uniform shop decorations, interior and marketing, uniform cooking materials.
I mentioned “evolving” because I believe you should not standardize and get stuck in the standard, but rather continuously look for improvements. And looking at AMPLEXOR, I’m sure we also score highly on this matter. We have structured ways of working but strive to promote an environment which is proactive, encourages innovation and outside-of-the-box thinking, where new ideas are generated and progressed. Since I joined the team, I’ve seen numerous evolutions in our project management approach. I’ve also personally helped enrich our tooling approach, by replacing Subversion with GIT project repositories, replace the JIRA workflow and recently proposed alternative ways to manage more complex or larger projects.
It’s important to verify your output. I’m not sure how the burger restaurant handles this. Do senior personnel do random checks? Maybe some mystery shopping?
At AMPLEXOR we introduced peer review in our web development teams with the adoption of GIT and the use of Bitbucket and GITflow. These tools have helped us standardize the use of pull requests, a web interface where developers discuss proposed changes before integrating them into the official project. In turn, this allows for both peer review and senior review for new features being developed (feature branches). Different types of review and testing are also part of our standard project management workflow mentioned earlier. We have also introduced Sonar as a quality gateway on a code level, with continuous inspection of code quality, for example to identify potential vulnerabilities or bugs.
No matter what you produce as output, what matters most in the end is the opinion of the client. Perceived quality is much more than “meets the eye” and can be impacted by communication, presentation, timeliness, and other factors. So it’s important to assess your clients’ perception and satisfaction with your products or services.
This is probably difficult for the burger restaurant. I did see a customer survey on a section of the bill, where they even offer a free meal in return. But someone with a bad experience such as mine, will probably just feel discouraged with the offer as they’ll hardly be in the mood to go back.
At AMPLEXOR, client opinions are valuable inputs to continuously improve our products and services. Many of the usability and performance improvements on our software come as requests from our community of users. How do we monitor client satisfaction? Service managers are encouraged to regularly poll clients for their satisfaction, as do account managers and project managers in their regular discussions with clients. The company also does a global customer satisfaction survey on a yearly basis.
The verdict… and the final deciding factor
So how does AMPLEXOR score in terms of service quality and would a “bad burger” experience be possible? Well, not to “blow our own horn”, but I believe we score pretty good in terms of quality assurance. However, I’m sure the burger restaurant thought the same thing. No matter how good you score, there is always room for improvement. A worrying thought for a service manager.
There is, however, one crucial factor that I haven’t yet discussed and which is our ultimate firewall: attitude! In the end, in a service-oriented business, it’s the people who are the biggest contributing factor towards quality. Their expertise, conduct and dedication are crucial, as well as their motivation to deliver quality and put the customer first. Things can go wrong. A burger might burn. But I know one thing for certain: none of my colleagues would dare present that burned burger to any of our customers!
About the author
Petros Giakouvakis is DXM Technical Consultant and Service Manager at AMPLEXOR, based in Belgium. Championing service and support in client projects, Petros formulates service delivery approaches that ensure high performance in incident, request, change and escalation processes. He’s passionate about developing collaborative ways of working and continuous improvement activities.