You wake up in the morning feeling slightly off; what’s wrong? You have a cup of coffee and try to shake it off, but it doesn’t leave you.

What do you do?

What you don’t do is reach for every pill and syrup in your medicine cabinet. Of course, that would be stupid.

So you whack a thermometer in your mouth and notice you’ve got a slightly elevated temperature.

So the next thing you probably do is go to the doctor; the doctor asks some questions, does a few more diagnostics, and then tells you you’ve got an infection.

The doctor then prescribes a particular antibiotic for the infection. You take the tablets and slowly recover.

There is a clear business parallel.

At first sight of a problem, many businesses will grab every tool they have available. They’ll do some extra training, advertising, staff motivation, new reporting, and any other thing they can get their hands on. It’s the equivalent of reaching into the medicine cabinet and popping a bunch of pills you “think” will work.

Customer surveys, focus groups, and market research are the business’s thermometers from a customer service or sales perspective. They take a quick temperature check of the organisation.

However, the business temperature tools can’t tell you what the problem is, and, like a thermometer, these tools can’t fix the problem.

Tools such as operational audits, Mystery Shopping and external consultants act more like the diagnostic doctor. You don’t see the doctor every day, but when you visit the doctor, they delve deep, prod and diagnose the problem. You don’t need to do a mystery shop every day any more than you need to see a doctor every day. Find the problem, then do your maintenance.

Management then comes in as the medicine. Management fixes the specific problem identified by the diagnostic, detected by the thermometer. Sometimes the pill has nasty after effects, but there’s a net good.

To wrap up the analogy. Not all pills are nasty or have to fix a problem. The doctor could just as quickly prescribe a vitamin for good general (preventative) health.