The discipline of one ring

There were 12 people on line at the post office today. That’s fine, I guess, because for most shipments, the post office is both a monopoly and a pretty good value. So service isn’t high on their list.

There are many businesses, though, that have no other useful tool available to build market share. They can’t profitably advertise (at least not so much any more) and they have competition. So they say they’re in the "service business."

But then, here comes the dreaded, "due to unusually heavy call volume…" or the line at the door or the interminable wait for a waiter.

[To interject: I’m not arguing that every business practice needs to be instant, or totally cater to the needs of the user. For example, I don’t think Google ought to have operators standing by to answer toll free calls from people who don’t know how to use the search engine. I’m arguing that if you’re going to compete on service, you ought to compete on service. Back to the post…]

So, some companies have decided to answer the phone on one ring. Fedex did this for a long, long time. Rackspace still does, which is exactly why we chose them (and they’ve made enough from one account with us to pay for dozens of people to answer the phone…).

When you need to answer the phone in one ring, you discover exactly what it means to provide a certain level of service. Either you’re succeeding or failing. So you hire more people and devote more resources, because there is no slippery slope. On or off.

Expensive? Well, it’s more than you’re spending now. But it’s cheaper than advertising and cheaper than losing a customer to the competitor who had the discipline.