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a blog by Chris Barrow

The 80/20 rule in a monopoly


Manchester Airport Terminal 3, Friday morning at 06:30.

My flight to Belfast this morning is delayed by 30 minutes (so far) and I have an unexpected moment to observe the crowds around me.

Mainly holidaymakers, with a selection of intoxicated stag and hen parties and very few business travellers identifiable.

As always, I’m fascinated by people and by the standards of customer service.

An airport is a monopoly.

I can choose between Costa Coffee, WH Smith, the traditional English bar and grill and an “Italian” deli.

In reality, every place is rammed at this time of day and the prices reflect the fact that we are locked in here.

(I’m sat in Costa with a bottle of water – not enough time to make a trip to The Escape Lounge worth the £15.00 investment)

I use the airport a lot and have familiarised myself with the facilities and the people who serve here.

Terminal 3 is a microcosm of life:

  1. an 80/20 rule in terms of the people who work here – 80% of whom clearly see this as a tedious way to make a living and have no intention of engaging with their customers or enjoying the job. 20% for whom nothing is too much trouble and a smile is a passport to a good day that passes quickly;

  2. an 80/20 rule in terms of the passengers – 80% of whom treat the facilities and the staff with the opposite of love – indifference. 20% who have the manners to say “please” and “thank you” and smile back.

In a monopoly, the 80% are essential, you need to maximise profit by employing low-grade people to deliver minimum levels of service to an indifferent audience.

In a monopoly, the 20% are often considered troublemakers.

In a free market, the 20% are essential – you need to maximise customer satisfaction by providing the very best products and services and a memorable user experience delivered by epic people.

Shareholder and investor pressure prefers a monopoly. We see that every day in dentistry.

It’s a fact of business life and there is little point in complaining.

Better to use this to your advantage.

Better to invest your own time in creating a brilliant business that 20% of patients will choose to visit and 20% of team players will want to join.

The real secret is to flip that 20% into becoming 80% of your customers.

That’s never going to happen here at T3.

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