When John Lewis and Apple are screwing up, you know there’s something wrong.

Apple have lost all of Mrs Hep’s calendar data (that’s why you didn’t receive a birthday card) and after 4 weeks, they can ‘see it’ but appear to be no closer to restoring it.

John Lewis screwed up an order 3 times before a ‘Customer Service Partner’ was exceptionally rude (I really do hope they record all calls) and caused a very rare hang up.

I appreciate that when it comes to customer service I’m in a privileged position; and I would never play the ‘Do you know who I am‘ card.

So, I took a step back from the individual situations and asked, ‘What the heck is happening?

And I think I’ve got it.

Apple, John Lewis, etc. are trying their best. I really do believe they want to provide brilliant customer service.

It’s their process that gets in the way.

And more specifically, the complexity of the process.

There’s just too much that can go wrong – and so it does.

It’s happening everywhere.

Last week I presented in a hotel; they had a real desire to provide 5 Star service.

This manifested itself in them insisting that a member of staff personally poured all the teas and coffees during a 15-minute break.

A very sweet girl did her best but with 175 people attending – and an average of 15 seconds per pour – you can see the problem.

The solution?


The more complexity, the more that can go wrong. The more that can go wrong, the more withdrawals are taken from a customer’s emotional bank account.

Simplification. Simplification. Simplification

What can you simplify?

If you strip back and refocus on your core, it’s easier to provide great service.


Complication leads to complaints.

Simplicity leads to service.

Be Brilliant!



  1. July 19th 2018 by Mike Rainey

    As usual Michael you are spot on. It is only occasionally the staff but usually the system. KISS.

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Thank you Mike. Old school is new school!

  2. July 19th 2018 by Helen Beaton

    Couldn’t agree more. I recently switched Power provider. This is supposed to be easy these days. The new provider was indeed cheaper, but the customer service on both sides got itself in an extraordinary knot. What on earth complicated process was involved? Extraordinary! And very very bad. 😉

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Hope you got its sorted Helen. You can see why people don’t bother.

  3. July 19th 2018 by Matt Southam

    I love the end lines that complication causes complaints.
    Keep processes simple and they work

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      I liked it too. Think I may end up using it a few more times 😉

  4. July 19th 2018 by Rosetta Nickson

    The larger the organisation, it seems the more complex the processes. Even the employees do not always understand their processes end to end. Then technology – the panacea to all our problems – does not necessarily make things easier, but can further complicate and can even be time consuming when manual data entry is required. Large organisations have lost the ability to behave in an agile manner or maybe the 2 do not go together anyway – a true oxymoron.

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      So true and what a lovely word – oxymoron

  5. July 19th 2018 by Karin Carruthers

    Less is more and so applies the rule of simplicity – thank you for reminding me.

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Thank you Karin

  6. July 19th 2018 by jonathan turner

    A very astute observation. So many processes create barriers to progress. They evolve in a logical way but that logic is often only considered from a narrow or individual perspective. The best processes enable ‘value to flow’ and are owned by the operators responsible for delivering value. I’ve long held the belief that transposing methods from world class manufacturing into the service industry can (and I know it works because I’ve done it) improve customer service and perhaps more importantly customer experience, by substantial margins.

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      I love that idea of ‘value to flow’ Jonathan.

  7. July 19th 2018 by Lucy Brown

    I attended your event last Friday. As lovely as the staff were the lady pouring our drinks stopped serving everyone temporarily to call for support. In the time she had taken to do that I could have made my own drink , what would have been nice is just a helping hand where needed.

    1. July 19th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Hi Lucy

      Great that you were there last week. In the end, I ended up pouring the coffees with her. There was so much to get through that day!


  8. July 19th 2018 by Emily

    I wholeheartedly agree that complex processes are getting in the way of customer service at John Lewis – just recently I’ve tried to order samples of curtain fabric from them, with a view to using their bespoke curtain-making service. If they don’t have the fabric that you want a sample of, what do they do?
    Tell you they don’t have it?
    Send it once it arrives?
    No – the answer is they do nothing at all!! The request just vanishes into a black hole – you never see the fabric and you never find out why!
    Not what I’d expect from them!

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Hi Emily

      John Lewis have read my blog and reached out. I hope to do a ‘How John Lewis Saved The Day’ update after Saturday.

  9. July 19th 2018 by chris hind

    they clearly forgot the basic mantra


    Keep it simple S

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      So true Chris

  10. July 20th 2018 by Kumar

    I do largely agree with your emails but on this occasion I have to say I did not follow the analysis.

    The bottom line is that the hotel could have hired 2 people to pour the teas for you, but that would have cost more and you may have taken your trade elsewhere.

    Also we are all expecting more for less which has been driven by technological advances and once there are robots to pour our teas and adequately answer our calls, perhaps the ‘more for less’ will work.

    We can have complex processes and systems but need adequate resources to match the complexity. What is often the case is that we are trying to cover ever increasing complexities within existing resources.

    Unfortunately as humans we cannot, yet, make a funny noise, stop speaking, close our eyes and blame it on a software problem. Though I have tried several times to no avail in the workplace.

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Hi Kumar

      Thank you for your post. I see where you are coming from, however the hotel really had a simple solution. Self serve.

      We all know how to pour a coffee. More stations, plenty of cups, milks and of course treats and everyone is happy 🙂

      People like self serve when it’s simple and it works.

      Be Brilliant!


  11. July 20th 2018 by Rob Pickering

    …but if they hadn’t screwed-up at the hotel by micro-managing the coffee pouring, you wouldn’t have been able to have me telling everyone that Michael Heppell is so good at customer service that he even helped pour the coffee so that we didn’t have to wait as long:-)

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      You are too kind Rob 🙂

  12. July 20th 2018 by WIlliam Martin

    Well said! This is often the result of the efforts of successive managers to “improve” things to meet targets set without considering the “end user”.

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Very true William.

  13. July 20th 2018 by Jackie

    I went to a training conference at a lovely hotel but they insisted on silver serving a 3 course lunch [which meant we ‘lost’ most of the afternoon] when a buffet would have been much simpler and let us get back to business. Meanwhile, a reliable customer service company favourite of mine is Richer Sounds

    1. July 20th 2018 by Michael Heppell

      Oh that would have caused a bout of cognitive dissonance from me.

      Love Richer Sounds

  14. July 27th 2018 by Mumpy

    It appears that JL have centralised their customer care & enquiries. You cannot contact a shop directly now.
    When are they going to learn!

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