leadership dot #2355: contrast

Black Friday was like a graduate course in customer service – providing lessons on how to do it well and definitely a primer on what not to do. I usually don’t partake in the madness, but a friend’s desire for that one certain Early Bird Special found me waiting outside in line at 5:45am, and once you’re up, well…

My gold seal goes to Lowe’s and Menard’s. Lowe’s had free donuts, coffee and hot chocolate for the hearty shoppers and randomly gave out free gift cards which reduced our bill by $105! Menard’s knew they would be busy and prepared for it – having all hands on deck to direct traffic to the checkout lines, setting up ad hoc registers to aid in processing and having staff all throughout the store available to help customers locate items in the ad. The parking lot was literally overflowing onto the frontage road but we waited in line less time at Menard’s than any other establishment.

Contrast that with JoAnn’s which had spectacular coupons and one (yes, one) cashier. The line literally was to the back of the store to check out and a similar size line cued up to first have the fabric cut. I did a U-turn as soon as I walked in. The Red Cross blood donation center was reminiscent of JoAnn’s – even though there had been multiple commercials urging people to donate, they had to turn people away due to inadequate staffing to handle any of the influx in volume. Kohl’s, too, had great coupons and literally an hour long wait in line to use them. While they had all their registers open, unlike Menard’s they limited themselves to the existing terminals instead of utilizing customer service, temporary registers or hand-held devices.

While Black Friday may not be the frenzy that it once was, there still was a noticeable uptick in the number of people in the stores. It was an opportunity for retailers not only to make some quick sales but to make an impression on shoppers who may not normally frequent their business. Some stores took this seriously and made it an experience to remember while others did more harm than good.

Spending resources to promote your organization without a proportionate investment in staffing is worse than doing nothing. If you incentivize business, be prepared to conduct it.

leadership dot #2347: interpreter

I received a pamphlet with my dental insurance bill informing me that if I had questions, I could call a number and receive assistance. What made it catch my eye is that it offered help in 15 different languages.

I wouldn’t think that Delta Dental of Iowa would provide language access services in Arabic, Hindi, Karen, Korean, Laotian, Pennsylvania Dutch, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese, but interpreters are available without charge for these languages and more. It is a great service for customers, free of charge.

While you may not be able to provide such a broad range of interpreters, is there something you can do to assist those who do not speak English? Perhaps you can provide materials in one or two other languages, provide a FAQ list in multiple languages or collect the names of your staff and key volunteers who could assist in translation.

True service is delivered in a language that can be understood.

leadership dot #2311: ill-will

I recently attempted to eat dinner at a restaurant but was greeted with this sign on the door: “Due to staffing issues only our drive-thru will be open for the rest of the night.” Inconvenient to be sure, but I had won a prize from the restaurant that I wanted to use so back to my car I went to pull around.

At the drive-thru, I learned that the $10 gift certificate that I won from their contest was when the franchise was under a different manager and the prize would not be honored. So I moved on to Plan C, only to find my coupon didn’t work either as their “mixed chicken” did not mix chicken and tenders (which is what my friend wanted). At that point, I opted for the three-strikes-you’re-out theory and left without ordering anything.

After my experience at the drive-thru, I am not surprised that they had staffing issues or turnover in their management. If leadership doesn’t show consideration or provide good service to customers, I suspect it carries over to how they treat employees. Or maybe it is the reverse: because the management doesn’t treat employees well, maybe that is why the staff doesn’t treat customers well. Either way, it is a recipe for ill-will and operational decline. No matter how tasty the food, if the people aren’t good it doesn’t matter.


leadership dot #2291: beetle

In The Culture Code, author Daniel Coyle recounts the story of when Senator Bob Kerrey ate at one of the Union Park restaurants owned by famed restaurateur Danny Meyer. Inexplicably, the salad of Kerry’s guest had a bug nestled in the lettuce.

The next day, Kerrey was at another of Meyer’s restaurants and his salad came out with a small piece of paper that said: “Ringo”. The waiter told Kerrey: “Danny wanted to make sure you knew that Gramercy Tavern wasn’t the only one of his restaurants that’s willing to garnish your salad with a Beatle.”

And now, all these many years later, the story lives on – not as an example of how horrible the restaurant was to have bugs, but rather how well the incident was handled.

Things will go wrong. The question is whether your clients will be talking about your beetle or your Beatle in response.

Source: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, 2018, p. 202.

leadership dot #2242: light reading

The library has always been known for loaning books – but this library made it even easier to do so. The Dubuque County Library features a selection of “summer light reads” that require no check out; rather it is borrowing on the honor system. This rack is located next to the door and makes it easy for patrons to grab a “beach book” on the way out. It relieves the pressure of returning the book by a timeline or feeling obligated to keep it pristine for the permanent collection.

Summer Light Reads is a low-key investment by the library – all are fiction paperbacks that can be picked up at any Goodwill or garage sale – but they stimulate reading and provide another service for readers. Many people want an easy read for the summer, and the library has done a good job of providing it.

Think about how you can make a service you offer even easier for your clientele. Is there a way to reposition something with a different proximity? Can you provide a “light” version of your traditional service at a reduced fee or no cost? What about functioning as a clearinghouse to allow your customers to exchange goods in your facility?

Summer is a good time to make something light and easy for your base.


leadership dot #2241: bait and switch

I’m sorry. To all the friends, family and strangers I met in line at the movie theater to whom I recommended MoviePass, I offer my apology. It was great in the beginning, but never have I seen a company implode as thoroughly as this one has.

When I signed up, it was under the premise that I could watch “one movie/day.” There were no other restrictions. It was such great fun all winter – I saw movies I would have never seen otherwise; I went to great movies multiple times; I could go at whatever time I liked, and it was as easy as using a credit card. Since then, every time I receive a communication from MoviePass it is to make the service more restrictive – without grandfathering in those of us who purchased an annual pass. Now there are only dinnertime options or 10pm (no prime evening showings), you can’t see a movie more than once, new releases are embargoed for two weeks and you have to photograph and upload your ticket stub – all providing that the app is working and hasn’t been shut down due to default or design on MoviePass’ end. I could never recommend them today.

MoviePass will be a business school case study someday – in my class if no other – that highlights the importance of a realistic financial plan and the importance of taking care of your early customers. If they had changed their terms but allowed us to have the original conditions of our contract, I could understand the need to do so. If they had changed the rules once and not grandfathered us in, I could maybe even stomach that. But repeatedly diminishing what we originally signed up for – under the guise of “terms and conditions may change” – is just poor, poor business practice and akin to bait and switch.

I gave MoviePass a free pass after their first two reductions in service, but their latest has sent me over the edge. To all my friends and family, I now say: “Take a pass on MoviePass”. What you sign up for today is likely not what you will receive tomorrow.

leadership dot #2235: surprise and delight

My sister purchased several packages of meat at the co-op and joked with the clerk that she was almost leaving her whole paycheck at the butcher counter. He subsequently handed her an additional package of four brats – with a special sticker indicating that she would receive them for free.

“It’s our Surprise and Delight Program,” the butcher said.

Surprise and delight it did! The brats were priced at $11.64 and it was a treat to receive them without cost.

Handing over a valuable package of meat may not fit within your organization’s service or budget range, but what can you do that emulates that concept? Whether through a formal program, by empowering your staff to initiate it when warranted or just through an occasional burst of serendipity, surprise and delight is a worthy aim for every provider.