Should You Hire Heston or Delia to Run Your Service Improvement Project?


Chris Stainthorpe of CustomerSure links the cooking styles of two iconic chefs to assess which style best fits the contact centre environment.

Imagine the scene. You’re in a senior customer experience role in a growing company – your 200 agents are all passionate advocates for the customer and are trying to do a great job amidst the “managed chaos” which comes with a fast-growing business.

But, despite everyone’s best efforts, customer experience is a mixed bag. Sometimes, it’s very very good, sometimes it’s OK. Occasionally it’s poor. You know that to sustain growth you need it to be great all the time.

So, you’re making a key hire – a head of Service Improvement, and you’re giving them licence to do whatever it takes to improve satisfaction.

You look up from your desk at the final two candidates waiting in your reception area. Unbelievably, it’s top TV chefs Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith.

It turns out that both are tired of the pressures of the kitchen and are hoping to bring their culinary expertise to bear in the calmer environment of the contact centre.

Who Should You Hire?

On paper, both are fantastic candidates. Both hugely experienced, have run successful business empires, and have experience working with customer-centric brands. We’re going to have to look a little deeper.

Heston Blumenthal

Heston is the owner of the Fat Duck, voted best restaurant in the world in 2005, and he’s perhaps best known for his highly scientific and complex approach to meals, or the “bonkers level of faff involved in making and serving the food”, as one writer puts it.

His signature dish, Sound of the Sea, has over 50 ingredients, while he also has co-authored a paper with Reading University, “Differences in Glutamic Acid and 5′-Ribonucleotide Contents between Flesh and Pulp of Tomatoes and the Relationship with Umami Taste”.

In addition, Heston’s cookbook, “Total Perfection: In Search of Total Perfection” is well loved by foodies.

Sounds (and tastes) great! How about Delia?

Delia Smith

Delia Smith is one of the most influential chefs of all time.

In 1998 she single-handedly caused British egg sales to rise by 10%, while she also had a part to play in supermarkets running out of cranberries and one pan manufacturer’s sales rising from 200 units to 90,000. Her books are also record-breaking bestsellers.

But the food she’s known for is certainly more everyday than Heston’s. Recipe collections on her website include: Chicken for Two, Hearty Soups, Quick and Easy and Traditional Winter Warmers.

Who to Choose?

Two celebrated chefs, but right now you can only hire one to tune up your customer experience.

Heston certainly sounds the more exciting, and undoubtedly has tricks up his crisp white sleeve that Delia can only dream of. But Delia’s no-nonsense approach has delivered amazing, sometimes record-breaking results for five consecutive decades.

Heston’s food is undeniably great, but to serve 42 diners a night takes over 80 staff, including 27 highly trained, experienced chefs. The cost of this experience? £400 per person.

In contrast, even if you’ve never cooked before, you should be able to manage Delia’s boiled egg recipe.

Soft-boiled eggs and Sound of the Sea are both delicious, but in nutritional terms, you’re probably better off with the eggs.

What Are You Trying to Achieve?

Heston is an undeniably great chef – but if you’re trying to train someone how to repeatably prepare nutritious food under tight deadlines without breaking the bank, perhaps Heston might not be a great mentor.

I’m sure even a culinary incompetent like me can be taught to prepare Sound of the Sea or Meat Fruit, but it’s going to take a lot of time, training and practice. What am I going to eat in the meantime? And what happens on the days I’m not able to source 80 grams of N-Zorbit M tapioca maltodextrin (an essential ingredient in making the ‘sand’ in Sound of the Sea)?

But get Delia to spend a few moments teaching me to boil an egg and cook chicken for two, then every day for the rest of my life, I’ll be able to reliably prepare healthy food.

Your customer service team are passionate, caring individuals, but right now are they closer to the team of 27 expert chefs who work at the Fat Duck or a group of catering school graduates with huge potential but limited experience?

Your business is going places, but at this moment in time is it closer to the Fat Duck’s kitchen, with its “lab grade rocket centrifuge”?

The Job Goes to…

Heston, you sound like you’d be an asset to any business. Your proposals for speech analysis and Root Cause AI sound like they could really work, and it was interesting to hear about your plans for chatbots.

But we feel that we need to get the basics right, and Delia’s proposal to roll out a simple, customer-centred feedback process has won us over. We at CustomerSure feel that if we haven’t got the basics right – if we’re not listening to our customers in their own words, and fixing problems when they happen – then your ideas run the risk of being “deckchairs on the Titanic”.

Experimentation can lead to innovation, but we worry that if we try to out-experiment the competition before we’ve put proven best practices in place, we run the risk of annoying customers rather than delighting them.

Once we’ve built that solid foundation of a customer feedback loop, and we’re maintaining consistently high satisfaction levels, we’ll be open to more exciting, experimental ideas, and we encourage you to apply again at that time.

Delia? The results you’ve achieved already speak for themselves. Good news, you’re hired. Let’s be ‘avin’ you!

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 19th Jul 2018 - Last modified: 14th Nov 2018
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