First published in FSM Magazine in May 2012
We have all done it. We go in, with the best of intentions, and tell the Client we are going to do a fantastic job for them. I am proud to say that almost always our business at Coverpoint does “deliver on the promise”, but occasionally we have to work harder and longer, to make the two meet. The measure for me is simple – client satisfaction. I don’t mind how it is measured, but I ask for feedback, badger our clients to tell us how to improve and spend time dissecting what we have done, and seeing if we can do it better next time. It all helps. We are certainly not perfect and have learnt more from this post delivery analysis than anything else. It can be a slap in the face that we all need sometimes.
So, I have the opportunity this month to act as “client” and set out my pet hate – when the promises made don’t match the delivery. As I have said already, easy to do, and it happens to everybody, but I want to spend a few paragraphs sharing my experiences and setting the record straight on why this winds me up so much.
As I say, it happens. Once is unfortunate, twice is careless and three times suggests it is a sales “tactic”, or worse, a complete lack of connection between sales and operations.
So let’s start there. The lack of connection between those that “sell” and those that “deliver”. I have to admit, I think this has happened recently on a site we handled near Leeds. The service, food, delivery and detail has changed massively from the opening day and the Account Manager has openly admitted that the sales team got it wrong, didn’t account for some costs and have left her “holding the baby”. That’s one company that will not be appearing on our Tender lists again!
Cynically, the next one for me is the “beautiful presentation” that disguises the fact that the Contract Partner can act, but can’t run a Contract! We have sat through some of the most exciting and interesting presentations, only to be astonished by the lack of even the most basic skills “on the ground”. Some of the people I have met would have been better suited to Britain’s Got Talent rather than a foodservice Tender, but it comes down to one thing, in the end they have to demonstrate they can do it.
So moving on, my next “big issue”. Contractors who tell you they have their “finger on the pulse” of their business and they can fully justify the need for a subsidy at the drop of a hat, but can’t produce a set of turnover figures every week, and a Profit and Loss account each month, for the Client or the Consultant. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Seems to me that there needs to be a bit of balance. If we produced accounts to the standard of many of these companies we would be laughed at. I have a site just like this at the moment where the Contract Partner is keen to get more sites from us, but is letting themselves down by simply not being credible with their figures or output. The funny thing is they just don’t get it.
Another comical, but equally damaging point, is the persistent nagging to get a Consultant out to “look at the business”. We go out, a lot, to see what people are doing. Sometimes I wonder why. Having spent a good bit of time and foregone fees (blasphemy), my colleagues and I are often underwhelmed by what was described as a “model reference site”. Don’t over-promise, you will soon be found out!
So, having got that little lot off my chest, what else raises my blood pressure? A plethora of management coming to account review meetings, hundreds of thousand of pounds of “quality” personnel and not a damn thing done properly from one meeting to the next. This is much more common than I would like and causes the whole team at Coverpoint massive frustration. Why say you will?, why take notes?, why confirm you will?, then give a pile of rubbish excuses why it didn’t happen. Another credibility gap.
Finally, I suppose the one that I can forgive the most, is the over optimistic financial offers. In many cases Contract Partners genuinely beleive they can do better than the incumbent. They have been to site, they have seen the current standard and they know where they can improve it. I suppose it is because we work in Shopping and Leisure foodservice consulting as well, but we really do “retail detail”. Ask most Contracting Partners about the average spends, dwell times, transaction counts and PPM’s (pounds per minute) and most of them will look at us blankly. There are those that pretend, and get found out quickly, and there are a few who genuinely know, but the vast majority do not. The theory of “rubbish in, rubbish out” has never been truer, and I can see why many companies have made such incredible errors. We had a Tender not so long ago where the VAT was completely miscalculated and the Contract Partner was including it in the concessionable sales – mind-blowing and damaging to the long term credibility of that business too.
I am not tarring everybody with the same brush. There are many fine businesses out there that “Ronseal” – doing “exactly what it says on the tin”. This is not in dispute, but as Contract Partners seek business in areas where they have not traditionally got expertise, the truth can often be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d.
The whole point about Contractor selection by Tender or by direct negotiation, is that you are trying to understand the competencies and abilities of the business to deliver on that site. We make a point of checking the actual operation against the “words and pictures” of the Tender and are often very surprised. Many times it isn’t contractual, just a slow but steady shift away from the initial offer.
So is this helpful? I really don’t know, but I would like all our Contracting Partners to think a little bit more about their promises and their delivery. After all, you are only as good as your last job. Making promises and not delivering on them is a very short term strategy, at least with me.