Customer Service lessons from Brailsford and Team GB cycling

Dave Brailsford
Creative Commons License photo credit: AndyCunningham

Continuing on from my last post (Great customer service and experience is a lot about listening and then doing the things that you are not asked to do), I read two books whilst away. One of which was Mark Cavendish’s autobiography: Boy Racer. In it there is a quote from Dave Brailsford which talked about:

“The Aggregation of Marginal Gains”

and how that was central to Team GB’s success on the track and the road.

Brailsford goes onto to explain more on the Team Sky Pro Cycling website:

“We’ve got this saying, ‘performance by the aggregation of marginal gains,'” Brailsford continued. “It means taking the 1% from everything you do; finding a 1% margin for improvement in everything you do. That’s what we try to do from the mechanics upwards.

“If a mechanic sticks a tyre on, and someone comes along and says it could be done better, it’s not an insult – it’s because we are always striving for improvement, for those 1% gains, in absolutely every single thing we do.”

Improvements in many areas can add up to a whole heap of difference rather than focusing on one killer thing.

The thing that struck me was how the same thing could be applied to business performance, change, service or other areas of business.

Like success in cycling, Wow! or delightful service is generally not one thing but a combination and aggregation of a whole series of marginal gains.

Where are you going to take 1% from first?

11 comments On Customer Service lessons from Brailsford and Team GB cycling

  • Hello Adrian
    There is a famous consultant who has written a few books whose mantra, to clients, is exactly that – what if you simply got 1% better every day on the key activities that make a difference in your business.

    Rob Yeung has published a book by the title “the Extra One Per Cent: how some changes make exceptional people. As he is the personal development field he is talking about people rather than organisations.

    So it looks like you are in good company. Now, who is going to take you up on your insight? The world is full of diet / exercise / healthy eating books and the population of fat / unhealthy people is climbing dramatically. Looks like the growth / availability of information/advice goes along with our remarkable ability to ignore that information. Or as Jonathan Haidt says: The Elephant Rules, the Fly only thinks it is riding/guiding/ controlling the Elephant.

    All the best,

    • Hi Maz,
      Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t heard of Rob Yeung so I’ll definitely check him out.

      Indeed, it is all well and good to talk about identifying a series of 1 percents but like in dieting etc the motivation to change is just as important.

      Love the Haidt comment. Hadn’t heard that one either 🙂



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  • Hi Adrian,

    Your post creates a problem for me. I preach (and preach and preach) the Pareto principle, focus on the big things. Yet I agree with your point (improve everything, no matter how small).

    I read once that success in business is all about getting your arms around a problem and nocking it off.

    Maybe the point is that it isn’t sufficient to identify the big thing, or listen to the gurus. Maybe the point is to fix something, anything and then move on to the next thing and fix that?


    • Hi James,
      For me, ultimately it’s about generating momentum and success. If I can do that better through focusing on a series of small changes then so be it.


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