Business Therapy: Problems and Solutions

Post by Loaay


In a recent business event in Kuwait, I asked the audience: “What would you do if one of your employees rushed over to you saying, “There’s a long queue at the counter in the new store”?” Most of them replied, “Open another counter.” The long queue issue disappears and everything is back to normal, right? Wrong. While opening another counter might be a quick fix to minimise the customers’ negative experience, a long queue is a result of an issue, not the issue itself. And without knowing what the actual problem is how can you tell if you have the right solution?There are many reasons why such an incident occurred: the employee may not have been well-trained; he or she is just slow; your process is too long; an IT meltdown; the store is poorly designed; or some customers are queuing for the wrong reasons, just to name a few. To start go to the store with your team and observe. Take pictures and videos if possible. Discussing a long queue is one thing, being there or at least seeing photos of it helps framing the challenge. Next, map the customer journey (and the employees’ too). Breaking down the current customer experience step by step allows you to spot pain points that may have led to the long queue or to even bigger issues. One particular advantage is that it allows you to see the business from the customer’s perspective – a critical tool for innovation and development that many managers and business owners don’t practice enough.

What follows is analysing your value chain, a formal way of referring to your suppliers, vendors, or strategic partners’ interactions with the business. What areas is the business weak in because of the quality of the services you receive from your value chain and what areas are strong because of it? This analysis helps to realistically evaluate solutions. Last step is mind mapping. Basically, layout all the data you gathered and look for insights and repeated patterns that can give you clues for possible solutions.

You might think by now that the steps above are theoretical and needless because you understand your business, your industry and your customers well enough to jump straight into the solution. That’s exactly where you’ll miss great opportunities for development. Innovation is a process that depends on design thinking principles and tools. Not knowing such tools makes managers rely only on their own experiences and intuition, which are great but not enough for sustainable growth. This week’s tip: Only when the right problem is identified can you explore possible solutions.

Post by Loaay Ahmed, a strategic business therapist since 1995. He currently lives and works in London, UK, while earning his master’s in Service Design Innovation, and managing knightscapital in Kuwait. For Loaay’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.

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2 comments, add your own...

  1. k says:

    i agree. while opening up another counter might reduce the effects, it does not solve the actual issue at hand. the most economic and efficient way to go about solving problems is to treat them at the source.

    for your specific issue (pos counters) there are a lot of external factors involved that contribute to long lines. no matter how well trained staff are, certain factors like timing (right after work) and weekends (when people do their grocery shopping) come into play. so to a certain extent lines may be shortened but the problem might still exist. the introduction of the “less than 10 items” helps massively. furthermore, something that i am yet to see in kuwait, is the implementation of self scanning and payment counters. when i lived in new york i usually used these counters. you would scan your item and place it in a bag that was atop a weighing scale. the weight was crosschecked with the item scanned to prevent any cheating. it was a super helpful system and that significantly reduced the lines at my local gro. short term, due to the learning curve, it might not yield the expected results but its a great long term solution.

    i know what im saying is a bit off topic. but your long lines question got me thinking. really enjoyed your article, looking forward to more!

  2. Neo says:

    Thanks Loay. Enjoyed the post. Looking forward to the next one.

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