If you’re trying to cut carbs as part of a New Year’s resolution, relax! I’m not going to suggest you start stuffing your face with breadsticks to increase profitability (eating dough doesn’t necessarily help you make more dough).

But I am going to share an interesting food-related service story I read on Jeff Toister’s Inside Customer Service blog.

In 2014, Starboard Value (an investor in Darden Restaurants), analyzed cost-saving opportunities at several of their brands. Among other things, Starboard determined that Olive Garden wasted $5 million per year on breadsticks.

Now, if you’ve ever visited an Olive Garden – or just watched one of their commercials – you know they’re famous for “unlimited” breadsticks. But, since those breadsticks taste best when eaten within 7 minutes of being served, their policy is to bring 1 breadstick per customer, plus one additional breadstick per table. Customers can always request more.

In their analysis, Starboard discovered that servers didn’t follow Olive Garden’s service process 57% of the time. They’d just give customers a large basket of breadsticks. I can understand why; it’s easier to make one trip to a table than several, and being generous with free items makes a favorable impression on customers.

But by initially overloading customers with all that buttered dough, Olive Garden’s servers created several problems:

  • Breadsticks went uneaten – and had to be thrown out.
  • Guests filled up on free breadsticks – and bought less food.
  • Servers had less contact with their guests, since they didn’t have to refill breadsticks as often.

So, let’s recap:

By not following service procedures, Olive Garden wasted $5 million per year.

On breadsticks.

That’s a lotta dough! The question is: Could not following service policies be costing your staffing or recruiting firm money? Use these ideas to eliminate waste from your service processes – and build a healthier bottom line in 2019:

Observe your employees.

Are they following your service processes with clients, candidates and associates on assignment? If not, find out why. On the one hand, your team may have uncovered better ways to meet customers’ needs that generate more revenue, save time or create a better CX. But on the other hand, their lack of adherence to service policies could be due to poor training or sheer laziness – and costing you dearly. Figure out the reasons employees aren’t following procedure, and then change the procedure, retrain or consider changing the employees.

Observe your customers.

Get out into the field. Go on site visits. Listen in on calls. Survey your customers. Do everything you can to understand why clients buy from you, how they interact with your agency, and what you could be doing differently to serve them better.

Take action.

For example, if your staffing firm offers free workforce consultations, consider what you could do to improve the processes around that service to build loyalty and your bottom line:

  • Give all account managers the same training on your workforce consultation process, so they understand how to use it as a strategic tool for clients (i.e., something that truly improves the employer’s bottom line).
  • Require reps to follow the same general process (variations will exist) when conducting the audit – so they properly identify challenges and opportunities. Make sure you give them a well-documented procedure and the appropriate resources to conduct a thorough analysis.
  • Watch the process in action. If your rep strays from the procedure, debrief to determine why. Observe how the client behaves during the audit, to identify opportunities for improving the workforce analysis process and creating a better outcome.

The same principles apply to candidates. Do recruiters follow up with every applicant, regardless of whether they’re right for an open position? Does your team actively – and consistently –  market highly placeable candidates (you have a process for that, right?) – or do they only focus on open orders, because it’s “easier” for them?

Opportunities for elevating your firm from vendor to partner, closing more placements and building a better bottom line often come from following shareworthy service processes. Open your eyes – where should you make changes this year?

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