Frankly my dear…

At a NYC Middle Eastern place where I sometimes grab lunch, I get to-go plate with some stewed chicken and vegetables, beans or okra, and brown rice, all for $6.50.  This is the steal of a lifetime in Manhattan.

They pack it in a round, aluminum takeout container with a plastic top, and place the container in a paper bag within a plastic bag  (it’s a lot of wrapping).

Today, a sunny day, I took the bag, walked halfway down the block, and sat down outside to enjoy a little sun with my lunch.  When I went to grab my food, there was a pool of sauce at the bottom the bag, and the container was dripping wet.  And, for once (when it has to do with spilling things), this wasn’t my fault: the container had been put into the small paper bag on its side, and everything drained out immediately.

This might have been a small mistake by a new person at the cash register, or it might have been how they do things every day (it’s happened before).  What it feels like is that they’ve gotten things 90% right but haven’t actually taken that last step to understand the full customer experience.  They’re incredibly nice, they treat customers right in the restaurant, they clearly make their food with care…but when I spill broth all over the place just trying to eat my lunch,  repeatedly, it feels like they don’t care about their customers.

That’s the kicker: you may care passionately about your customers, but they might not know!

They easiest way to fix this is to ask them what they think.  In person.  And listen to their answers sincerely.  For example:

  • If you’re a teacher, could you call up a parent and asked what she and her son or daughter think about the class you teach?
  • If you’re a customer service rep, can you go off script and ask the “Did I solve your problem today satisfactorily” in a sincere way, with a follow-up question?
  • If you work at a nonprofit, could you call up 10 of your donors and ask what they really think about the organization, and what their experience is as major supporters?
  • If a regular lunch customer comes in, could you ask how their sandwich was last week?
  • And if you’re a blogger, could you email the five people who comment the most on your blog and ask them for some feedback?

If you give this a go, and you’re genuine, at the very least your customers will feel more valued and they’ll know that you actually care.  More likely still, you’ll probably learn at least one thing you could change that will make big a difference to a lot of folks.

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