Every business is a service business.

We apply the tools that make service businesses stronger through better strategy, innovation, marketing and day-to-day management.

Thank you for joining the conversation.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A 3-legged entry in the 100M dash.

I ran into an interesting capacity dynamic yesterday when I stopped to run a few errands on the way home at the end of my “official” work week.

My favorite time for an extended grocery run is late Friday afternoon / early Friday evening. Everyone else is on patios, in restaurants, bars or dens unwinding from the work week. Few are thinking about how bare their pantry is or how the fridge only contains condiments – that is a problem for Saturday.

On Friday evening the grocery store(s) I support offer few competing shoppers, though all of the weekend sales are already posted, and scores of people to help should I need something in particular.

Yesterday, however, I also walked across its parking lot to a liquor store. Same time & place, completely different result. The liquor store was a madhouse. The narrow aisles completely cramped with carts not designed for the space, store employees at a near sprint trying to attend to every customer with a question or and keep stock on the floor, every check-out line seven or eight customers deep.

Why don’t these businesses just team up?

They really don’t compete. The grocery store sells little beer, and the only items the liquor store sells that could be found in the grocery store are lemons, limes & Red Bull.

They could be balancing their service capacity with demand much better if they would take the Friday afternoon excess grocery store employees and apply them to the shortage of help in the liquor store. On weekend days and during the week, the flow could reverse to accommodate busy times for the grocery store.

Take it a step further. Move the liquor store from the place across the street into the adjoining retail space, knock out part of a wall and provide an experience where two patrons can sell complementary products through a single shared experience, supported by employees that know their stuff in both, able to offer suggestions on pairings, even “cross the transom” to support a single customer’s shopping experience.

Matching service capacity with demand is tricky in any environment. The natural flows of these businesses are too great a gift to be overlooked. A business can try and make it on its own, staffing for service & knowing full well they’ll have times with both excess capacity and times when they’re dissatisfying customers with inadequate staff. Conversely, they can partner to expand their formats & share labor cost, to make the most of the customer experience and approach the capacity problem creatively.


Anonymous said...


Barry Dalton said...

Interesting. I always appreciate you're constant problem solving lens through which you view every day life.

To address the issues you raise, you are right on. (putting on my economist hat...yea I have a degree in that. so, lets put it to use), you're talking about economies of scale and effective labor distribution/utilization as a method for improving the service experience. If capacity constraints were the only driver of good or poor customer experience, I'd say case closed.

However, I know you better. And, I while not putting words in your mouth, I'd guess you'd agree the equation has many other variables. and those others are weighted heavier in the service experience equation.

Labor skill set for one. I know I expect a different level of product knowledge and service from the guys in the wine & spirits store at which I shop than I do from the helpful folks at my grocery store(s). I have a Wegmans (considered by many, a higher-end grocer)near me. And even there, I have a different expectation of expertise from the employees there than at my favorite wine store. Some of the folks at Wegmans, like in the prepared foods area, know their stuff. And, I have full confidence in them to recommend recipes, talk about the type of grass my grass-fed beef is given, etc.

But it's still not the same. When I walk into my wine & liquor store, I expect (and my guys deliver) a level of knowledge of the products they sell, whether it's the latest info on why that rare wine find from South America just won a tasting contest; or the specific agave plant from which the new tequila is distilled.

So, while the cyclical capacity and associated labor staffing issue is addressed by your idea, the service experience would only be marginally addressed by such a move. And I wonder if it might have a backlash the other way too. When the recovering drinker asks the sommelier the difference between the red and yellow bell peppers.

thanks for another thought provoking post.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It takes all kinds to make a world.............................................................