Do your customers face a bottleneck?

If you read my last blog you’ll know that we have recently returned from a holiday to Tuscany. We drove there so there were plenty of stops for diesel en route. It’s amazing how many different descriptions one comes across for fuel and a bit scary if the tank is low and you don’t understand which pump is which! We also came across lots of different systems for selling fuel, from the full service with a complimentary windscreen wash whilst the tank was filling, through the fully automated to the cumbersome system I’ll tell you about shortly. We drove in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. That’s a lot of different languages and it wasn’t always easy to understand what the system was or to understand the instructions given. We gave up a couple of times.

How often do people give up on your business? Do they ring someone else when they can’t get you on the ‘phone? Do they visit another website because yours in too clunky? Do they opt out of the purchase because there’s a glitch in the system? Do they give up because it’s just too difficult to buy from you? I know it sometimes happens to me and I’m working hard to eliminate the glitches.

I’m sure lots of people give up on the Service Station on the A16 in Belgium. This is one of the first service stations you encounter as you head north from the channel ferries and its customers are drawn from lots of different countries, speaking lots of different languages. Getting fuel at this service station is a time consuming activity, about 30 minutes in our case!

The problem is with the system. Before you can fill up your vehicle you have to pay in the shop (where there is often a long queue)! Before you can pay you have to have your vehicle on a pump so that you can give the cashier the pump number. You have to guess how much fuel you can get into your tank! If you guess too much you have to queue up again to get a refund. If you guess too little you either have to go back again and pay some more money to continue or leave without a full tank. All this time you are occupying a pump so no-one else can use it! Heaven help you if you are driving a mobile home which needs a special attachment to get the fuel into the vehicle because you have to know that a deposit is required before you will be lent the attachment.

I know there is a problem with people driving off without paying for their fuel but this is 2010 and the technology exists for people to pay and help themselves from unstaffed service stations so why such an antiquated system at this service station? I’m sure they lose lots of customers who simply give up. Perhaps the locals know not to go there because all the foreigners will be clogging up the pumps trying to work out what the system is.

This got me thinking about bottlenecks in business. I know that as a one woman band I sometimes have them, do you? I’ve come back from holiday to look at ways that I can streamline some of my activities so that I don’t lose customers who don’t have the time or inclination to wait.

In researching this blog I came across some information that suggests you can cross Belgium in less than three hours using the motorway! Just make sure you don’t need to stop for fuel on the A16! We were unlucky, 10 minutes after leaving this service station we found ourselves in a traffic jam caused by an accident and sat on a motorway car park for an hour and a half. Just as well we’d filled up the tank or we might have been the next obstruction.

Good luck with removing the obstructions in your business. If you need help to sort out your systems and procedures I highly recommend Rosanna Henderson of Conker Gets it Done: www.conkergetsitdone.co.uk

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