As it appeared in the Daily Nation on June28th 2016
I was recently reading an article titled “even dwarfs started small” and later learnt about the 1970 German drama by the same title. What does the obscure phrase mean? Are dwarfs still not small? The size of a dwarf is beside the main point in the article. Though I am yet to watch the drama, I bet even the dwarfs in the drama started small. The aim of the article was to look at the strategic implications of age and size of organizations. This got me thinking about the level of customer service in small organization and in larger, in new organizations and in the older organizations. Which is better? Which is worse?
As I was having these thoughts, I was sitting at a Coffee house in my neighbourhood. I had the previous day counted six Coffee houses of the same brand that have sprung up in my hood in the last 6 years. On this unfortunate day, no one had bothered to clear the table. I did not see anyone walk away as I walked in and therefore suspect the table had been messy for a little while. It was a cold afternoon and the wait-staff ware huddled near the till possibly to keep warm. I am not so good at calling the waiter so I walked up to them to request for help. That was not the end; someone sat next to me and waited for like 30 minutes as the staff walked past him. I looked around for the branch manager who I often identify by their dress code but there was none in sight.
As I reflected on the highlights of the article, I questioned if the coffee house was experiencing the liability of age and size. I also wondered whether the chain is thinking of franchising as it grows. When Aldrich and Auster wrote the article in 1986, they highlighted some simple-truths that come with age and size. They talked about loss of control by the founders, issues of inconsistency, hardening of some vested interests and similarity of perceptions. They also noted that larger and older organizations have more resources. A new small business will battle with inadequate resources but shine in the light of the founder’s competences. A bigger older family business may have sufficient resource strengths but grapple with succession.
The plain truth about customer service is that age and size do not matter. Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena a bank in Italy is recorded as the oldest surviving bank in the world. Established in 1472, the bank has transformed its ways with the times and 500 years later it is competing with younger and smaller banks. The same applies to the ‘The Hoshi Ryokan’ a Japanese family owned traditional inn founded in 705 AD. It has survived through forty-six generations and has evolved over the centuries. Similarly, for 40 continuous years, The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado has been honored with providing the highest level of customer service. It has one well-kept secret; it has a system and culture that promotes exemplary service throughout the organization. Small or Big? New or old? Size and age are not to blame, any business can provide excellent customer service if it purposes to do so.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on email@example.com/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy