It’s Almost Like Failure Is Intentional…

By on August 26, 2014
It’s Almost Like Failure Is Intentional

If a company planned to fail, it couldn’t come up with a more effective technique than this one. I’m ordering a coffee in one of the big-box retail book stores. After scanning the menu, I ask for a peppermint latte and give the clerk a coupon that says “good for a latte.” After handing me the peppermint latte, and my giving him the coupon, the clerk says to me, “That’ll be $1.02.” I reply, “But the coupon says it’s good for a latte.” “Well,” he answers, “it should have said that it was only good for a plain latte, the peppermint latte will cost you $1.02.” I pay and walk away annoyed.

This company no longer exists.

Here’s another example of the type of behavior that drives failure.

My wife, Dolores, is in the bakery section of a large food market. She has a question about a loaf of bread, walks up to a bakery employee who is stacking rolls in a case and asks, “Could you tell me….” She doesn’t even have a chance to finish asking her question when the employee interrupts her and, making no eye contact, says “Can’t you see I’m busy right now? Come back later.”

And here’s the type of behavior that drives success.

Dolores leaves the store but doesn’t “come back later.” Instead, she goes to a nearby market where she hasn’t experienced this type of behavior. On the contrary, here’s what interactions with employees are routinely like in this market. Picture this. We’re being checked out. The checker notices a couple of chocolate bars that we’re buying and, with a smile on her face, says, “I just love chocolate with sea salt. Isn’t it delicious!” She adds, “You know, the chocolate with raspberries is also very good. Next time you’re in you should try it.” We will. Her friendly smile and enthusiasm are quite infectious.

Do these type of experiences really make a difference on the bottom line? You bet they do. Here are some telling statistics: The average sales per square foot of large food retailers (such as the “Can’t you see I’m busy” place) are $531. The average sales per square foot of the food retailer where Dolores and I have great buying experiences is $1,750.

While one of these food chains (“Can’t you see I’m busy right now”) is mulling around in mediocrity, a very dangerous place to be in today’s highly competitive marketplace, the other is on a fast growth curve, opening up stores nationally at a rate of 30 per year. They now have a national presence with over 400 stores and are experiencing a compound growth rate of 21% in sales, far above the average in their industry.

So what drives sales of $1,750 per square foot in one food retailer and $531 in another? Many factors impact sales and profitability. The key factor, however, is the quality of customer interactions with employees. Make them very positive, in fact, make them memorable and customers come back. On the other hand, if these experiences range from mediocre and forgettable to downright annoying customers don’t come back. It really is that simple.

Driving the Implementation of a Sustainable Lean TransformationAnd what’s the secret to developing a cadre of employees who interact very positively with customers? Here it is: Getting these employees focused on improving the way they do their work and letting them know how much their knowledge and creativity is valued.

Our Kaizen Thinking and Idea Board programs can make this happen. Call me anytime at 314-303-0612 and let’s discuss. I’m confident that you’ll find it time very well spent.

About George Friesen

George Friesen serves as Business Practice Leader - Lean Manufacturing for the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College. He has led the College's Lean business practice area since 2000. Prior to joining the College, George worked for Maritz Performance Improvement Company. Over the past 35 years, he has served a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies, specializing during the past eleven years in Lean Manufacturing, focusing especially on the 5S System, Lean leadership and thinking processes, Value Stream Mapping, and Lean team building. George is a graduate of Washington University (AB), Webster University (MA), and United States Air Force Flight Training.

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