leadership dot #2204: aligned

I have a new neighbor – who is installing a new pool – which requires the installation of a new section of fence to replace my adjoining chain link with a regulation height barrier. The men who were here yesterday to do the job not only installed the new fence section but spent a considerable amount of time realigning the existing fencing so that it all was even.

Their company did not install the original fence, but they took the time to improve it. No one remembers who did the initial work, but the current contractor’s reputation is what would be tarnished if the new work looked shoddy for whatever reason. One section installed correctly becomes invisible if the surrounding sections are out of kilter — so they did the entire fence as it should be done.

Do you have similar pride in your work or do you focus only on the piece that is “yours”? Take a lesson from the fence installers and embrace a larger view of your duties. Even if you technically only have responsibility for a section, your integrity is judged on the whole.

leadership dot #2203: baggage

Air travel, something that used to be a luxury for the affluent, has become a chaotic experience for the multitudes. I was just in O’Hare and LaGuardia where oversold flights, insufficient airport seating and understaffed ticket counters contributed to a harried boarding process for all.

But what really made it mayhem was the illogical policy airlines have regarding checked baggage. It makes no sense to me that airlines charge people to check their bags – thus encouraging carry-ons – but have inadequate space to accommodate them. On several legs of my trip, the final boarding group was mandated to check their roller-boards at the gate, thus doing for free what would have cost $25 if the passenger had done it in a timely fashion, but now doing it at the worst possible time and place from an efficiency perspective. It seems crazy that airlines push a practice that delays the process and requires much more manual work by the airline without generating revenue. The last-minute free checking further discourages people from checking their bags for their next trip when they are guaranteed to pay to do so; instead, many people will take their chances that they’ll get a free pass at the gate.

Wouldn’t airlines rather have people check their bags? It would expedite the boarding and deplaning processes and avoid all the last-minute gate checks. It seems to me that they are incentivizing the wrong thing: checked bags should be free and carry-ons that don’t fit under the seat should incur a charge.

The next time you implement a policy, think through what would happen if it worked. What if your policy to encourage one set of behavior was wildly successful: what implications would that have? What are the downsides to a shift in practice and how can you mitigate them? All policies have inherent baggage inherent in their implementation. Your job is to check the negatives and carry on with the positives instead of doing the reverse by default.

leadership dot #2192: schedule

I have a friend who just had surgery and was told to make follow up appointments ten days and four weeks after coming home from the hospital. When she called to make those appointments, she was told there were no openings for six weeks.

After a series of frustrating phone calls, she reached the doctor’s nurse, who, of course, got her scheduled.

When services you provide are designed to be used as a series, why not package them that way? When someone makes an appointment for this surgery, at that time schedule the two follow up visits. When you buy a new set of tires, at that time schedule the re-torquing that is necessary after 100 miles. When you book a photography session, at that time book the session to review your proofs.

We all spend too much of our time doing follow up: resending the emails that are not answered, chasing down the forms that are not submitted, waiting for the calls that go unreturned. Don’t add scheduling to the list. When you know there will be a part 2 or part 3, treat it all as one action to add to your calendar.

leadership dot #2188: return

At the risk of TMI, let’s leave it that my puppy is having some issues with her stool and the veterinarian recommended that I switch food. I have on hand a new 40# bag of food, auto-shipped from Chewy.com that I figured I was stuck with, but when I was on the website ordering new food, I noticed a “Returns” tab, so I gave them a call.

In less than two minutes (literally), I had received a $50 refund for my food and told to donate the unopened bag to the Humane Society on Chewy’s behalf. Before I hung up, I had an email with the credit and another canceling my auto-ship. No questions asked, no hassle, just “have a great day.” Wow.

Chewy’s refund policy says: “We want you to be delighted, enchanted, blown away, jubilant, thrilled, ecstatic, tickled pink, euphoric, overjoyed, pleasantly surprised, elated, flying high, excited, and definitely over the moon about your experience with us. Our policy is simple: If you’re not 100% totally, completely, and unconditionally satisfied for any reason whatsoever, return it! We’ll give you a complete refund. Oh ya, we’ll also pay for the return shipping.”

 Why does working with a company that delivers such stellar service have to be the exception rather than the norm? In the dog eat dog world of retail sales, Chewy has found a way to distinguish themselves as Best in Show. Take a lesson from them on how to truly treat your customers so that, like me, they’ll be wagging their tail with happiness over the ease of their transactions.

leadership dot #2183: glitter

The breaking of a bone can be a traumatic experience for a child – or not.

One St. Louis pediatric orthopedist turned a broken bone into an adventure and had his 6-year old patient leave with a smile in addition to her cast. How did they do it?

>No plain, boring white casts. The patient was able not only to pick out her color but had the option to add sparkles to the plaster mix. Somehow, a sparkly pink cast doesn’t seem as medicinal or daunting as a boring white one.

>Since she’s a thumb sucker, they took special care to accommodate for that and left the thumb outside the cast.

>The cast came complete with a mini-Sharpie so the patient was immediately equipped to get autographs – thus making the cast personalized and cool.

As a pediatric orthopedist, his entire clientele consists of children with injuries. By turning the office visit into a fun experience for them, it has the effect of helping the visit go much more smoothly for him. How can you adopt some of these principles and help deliver glitter among the medicine you must serve?

Thanks, Brian!


leadership dot #2180: what cost

Another implication of excessive brand extensions (as I wrote about yesterday) is that it makes couponing all but impossible. Twice recently I have been in line at the grocery store with a current coupon that I wanted to use on a product and was declined. “Yes, they are Johnsonville original brats”, the clerk sniped, “but not the Johnsonville flame grilled original brats.” Too bad for me.

The faulty logic comes in for the store when I decided not to purchase the product without the coupon. Due to health laws, they are unable to return the package back to the sales floor and thus literally tossed out $7 worth of meat right in front of me rather than give me one dollar off.

It reminded me of a saying that my colleague Michael Miller often repeated to us: “What does being right get you?” Yes, the coupon technically was not applicable to the product I had chosen, but what did being right do for them? They irritated me, they aggravated the customers in line behind me, and they ruined a much greater value than if they had honored the coupon even though it was incorrect.

Think about Michael’s question when you are training your staff, creating policy or deciding what course of action you should follow. What does being right get you? Most times, you just walk away with righteousness at a ridiculously high cost.

leadership dot #2175: clean up

One does not normally look for a dry cleaner while on vacation, but there was a cap and gown that needed to be pressed so we sought one out. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating stops of the whole vacation.

Milt and Edie’s drycleaners is a place like no other. They are open 24/7/365 and offer alterations during all those hours – at no extra charge! There is free popcorn and coffee (always), sometimes supplemented with free hot dogs or cookies. You can eat your treats by the fish pond outside where the sign proclaims: “If we were any more environmentally friendly, we’d be beating your clothes on a rock.”

Milt and Edie’s provides free cardboard caddies for hangar recycling, bins to donate old clothes and free shirt collar stays and buttons on a lapel pin to use in emergencies. As a new customer, we received a gift bag with a lint roller, nail file, notepad, coupons, and more. I walked out of there with more branded materials than I have for my own company!

The place is so busy that at night they have a security guard directing traffic in the parking lot. When you walk in there are six counters to serve you, all awash in their distinctive hot pink.

Milt and Edie’s has been in business for over 70 years. When it was founded it was certainly not common to offer this level of service or to create such a distinctive environment, but perhaps their foresight is what has sustained them for three-fourths of a century.

If Milt and Edie can make a memorable experience at a dry cleaning and tailoring business, think of the possibilities that exist in your organization. How can you go the extra mile to deliver the seemingly impossible for your clients and clean up on your competition?