Saturday, October 8, 2011

Right is Right unless its a Left

I think I am a careful and courteous driver. Of course I think I can carry a tune too and two of the most overestimated abilities are driving and singing. Sixty four percent of us would rate our driving skills as excellent. I am sure you are an excellent driver too.

The other day I was getting on the Northway and the entranceway has a funnel merge where cars from two different locations come together to enter at the same place. Traffic was heavy so there was a line of cars entering from both locations funneling down to one lane just to have the opportunity to merge into traffic on the Northway.

As I approached I watched as cars politely alternated into the first merge. Slow but steady. We’ll all eventually get where we were going.  I approached and started to enter the gap left by the merging car ahead of me. It was my turn according to the unwritten rule of the procession.  Instead of me filing into that single line awaiting the next step of the Northway merge I watched a car from the other lane speed up and squeeze me out of “my spot” and essentially block me from entering. Two other cars took that break in the rhythm to jump ahead of the line too.

We all seem to live life in the fast lane. We are always in a hurry trying to get through all the busyness of our day. Waiting in lines is part of it and when people are discourteous it bothers us. Right is right. Still there are people who think that they deserve special treatment or aggressively take more than their share. Don’t you just hate these type of people?

So you are waiting in line at your favorite Mr. Subb location and although the line is moving at a steady pace you can’t wait to savor one of those delicious potato nugget morsels that you can only find at Mr. Subb. Right out of nowhere somebody opens the door and buzzes right past you and goes straight to the register. I know you are getting upset. I would. Line jumpers just burn me. Right is right.

Yeah, right is right unless it’s a left. Line jumping is allowed for people who order online. They placed their order well before you stepped into line and can go directly to the register to pick up their food from the next available server. Right is right. Why don’t you place your next order online? Not only will you save 5% with every order, you’ll be able to jump to the front of the line too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The answer is NO?

Our days are filled with a constant barrage for our attention, for our time and for our money. Some requests are subtle like a soft wind whispering in our ears. Some requests are an all out assault against our fortress of self. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

Most of us treat these affronts like we are in battle and they are attacks on our castles. We train ourselves to instantly defend and quickly answer “NO”. We scream “NO”. We shield ourselves with the answer. The faster our response the faster we can move on to the nest request. The answer is NO.

I think back on some of the sales pitches that I declined before I even understood the deal. Those fast food burger places that pitched the “would you like to make this a meal deal... you save” Or walking into one of those big box stores and making some large purchases for my home. The cashier went into a pitch about their credit card and saving on this purchase... except that my automatic defenses had already kicked in and I had answered NO before the nature of the offer settled in my ears. Some of these offers actually made sense. If I had taken the time to think about them before answering I would have answered yes. Who won’t want to pay less for something?

Late last Fall Mr. Subb ran a promotion to help raise money for the Regional Food Bank. We offered a coupon book with $35 worth of coupons for $3.50. One coupon alone was a free Wrap worth the cost of the book itself. There were other totally free items too. We thought that this was a guaranteed win-win situation. Customers received valuable savings, the Regional Food Bank got money to help them feed the thousands of people in need in the Capital Region and it helped Mr. Subb draw more people back during the slower months of January and February. Some of you took advantage of this offer and we thank you. Some of your automatic defenses answered for you and that answer was NO. You answered before the real offer settled in on your ears. If you had thought about it I am sure the offer would have been a logical choice.

The week of September 18 – 24 is “Dine Out No kid Hungry” week. Restaurants all over the United States are joining together to help knock out hunger among our kids. Mr. Subb has joined the fight. Please take a moment to understand our sales pitch before you automatically answer NO.

Mr Subb will give any customer a certificate for a free order of Oven Baked Potato Nugget when they donate at least $1. This is a win-win deal. $1 goes to a noble cause, you get an FREE order of Oven Baked Potato Nuggets for your next visit and we get to see you back on another day.  A quick view of this deal shows you really save almost 50% on that order of Potato Nuggets and helped feed some hungry kids.

Do you want to help even more?  Mr. Subb will give you a certificate for a free 6-inch subb if you donate $5 or more. Here are samples of the certificates. These are VOID of course. The real ones are available only at our locations. Why not take the opportunity to answer YES and make a real difference.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Little Things

It can be the little things that can make the difference in your day. Maybe it is a spontaneous hug from one of your children, having green stoplights all the way to work or finding money in one of your coat pockets. We take those moments, stick them in our pockets and carry them with us so that we can take them out and smile whenever we need them.

Just like with your day, it is the little things that can make the difference with customer service. I don’t visit my bank that often. These days most things are done online but maybe once a month I’ll need some cash and instead of using an ATM card I will visit my bank branch and cash a check. I think I visit because I really like the way the bank tellers make me feel. They call me by name and greet me more like a friend than as a customer. The fact that they know me as I walk up to the counter is a little thing but it makes their customer service exemplary in my book.

I try not to think that the reason that these little things make such a difference is because there are so many places where the customer service is lacking. Or to wonder why so many businesses are going the self-service route and avoiding customer service all together. I’d rather think that these small things make such a difference because they are personal in nature.

In fact, when people ask me how Mr. Subb is different than our competition one of the things that first comes to mind is about the people that work here. Most really care. They care about the customer, about providing the best service and about creating the best sandwiches that they can. I love visiting our restaurants just so I can see our people interact with our customers.

I am always impressed by how many customers are recognized. They might not know their names but they’ll have the customer’s regular order down to the exact details.

“He likes extra onions but only on half because he shares his subb with his wife and she doesn’t like onions. Make sure you wrap each half separately and twist the paper on the end of the one with onions…”

“Coffee but put a few ice cubes in it too cool it down…”

“Thursdays are Grilled Chicken days. Extra mayo on both the bottom and top of the roll...”

I like to watch for people doing things right and doing those small things that can really make the difference. Today I was in a store and a customer was asking about our Limited Time Chicken Salad Subb. He wanted to make sure that he would enjoy it. The Manager working described how we made it and assured him that he would like it and offered him a sample. He ordered a Foot Long Subb and waved off the sample. She insisted that he try it anyway so that he knew that he was getting all white meat chicken, fresh crisp celery and a delicious sandwich. A little thing but I am sure that he walked away happy.

Sometimes I don’t have to watch for these little things. Sometimes they just smack me on the head. One started with a phone call from an employee from one of our stores. Their Manager was on vacation and their District Manager was busy dealing with another urgent matter. The girl was on the verge of tears. A customer had ordered some party items and we had made the order incorrectly. The customer had specific instructions and we had failed to carry them out. The customer was upset and their anger twisted this young lady into knots. She tried to rectify the situation and told the customer that she would run new items directly to her business meeting but the damage was already done and this solution did not make the customer happy.
Our employee was clearly really upset. She did not know how to make things better and even said that she would pay for the item that she had make a mistake on. I assured her that mistakes happen to everyone and that we would never expect her to do that. We talked about how to handle the situation and she called the customer to apologize again and to make the customer happy.

A long story short…
The customer called me directly because she wanted to make sure that our employee did not get into trouble and to compliment her on how well she handled the complaint. The one thing that struck her the most was a little thing about our employee offering to personally delivering new items directly to their meeting. I know this is not really a little thing. It is a whole series of little things that in the end make all the difference.

What little things make your day or makes the difference in your customer service?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Speaking To Me

Many years ago I was captivated by a radio commercial. I don’t know if it was the voice of the celebrity or the simplistic approach that the producers took. It just grew on me and so did the image of the company that it was touting.

The commercial was for one of those national motel chains and the actor had a cool name that just rolled off your tongue and it always ended with a welcome telling you these places left the light on just for you.

I happened to be traveling one day and I was in need of a place to stay. It was late and I wanted something inexpensive because I would be getting up early to continue my travels. The happy feeling of the commercial washed over me as I saw one of their signs blazing through the darkness. My heartbeat kicked up a notch and I realized that I had an opportunity to stay with “friends”

I checked in and walked into the room and stopped short. It smelled kind of funny. No bother I told myself. Just a few hours of sleep was all that I needed. I pulled back the covers of the bed and clearly saw that the linen hadn’t been changed from the last customer’s visit. That happy feeling quickly disappeared. The smell in the room pounded at me. There was no way I could sleep in this room. A quick trip to the bathroom confirmed my sentiment and I was back on the road to the next motel thankful that they did not leave the light on for me.

It is amazing how susceptible we are to advertising. Many times a good talking, good-looking politician can get our vote over a more capable candidate.

Large chains with big advertising budgets know this. They know that if they spend enough money and have the right flavor of commercial they can convince us that they are something that they really are not. One of our competitors uses a deluge of advertising to nails the word “fresh” to their name. I wonder what their concept of fresh really is though. Their lettuce is sliced, chlorinated and packed in bags a week ahead of when it makes it to your sandwich. Ask them to let you see a slicer for their deli meats and they can’t because there isn’t one in their restaurant.

Sometimes we are lucky and the contrast is so big between the promise of the commercial and the actual product that we can see through the hype. Many times the lines are a bit blurred and they fool us for a while. At Mr. Subb what you see should be what you get. All photos are taken in one of our stores without fancy lighting or a professional food stylist using fake products to try to fool you.  We don’t have that huge advertising budget and we’ll let you form your own opinion of who we really are.

And yes… Please continue to be a good customer and tell us when we can do things better or when we did things that let that “happy feeling wash right over you”.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It Cost How Much?

My wife asked me to stop and pick up eggs on the way home the other day. We were all home the next morning and maybe we’d have something more substantial than a pop tart for breakfast.

I pulled into the convenience store and wandered over to the coolers where the eggs were kept. My wife has me well trained. I knew that we always get the large size and that I have to open the carton and make sure that none of the eggs are cracked or broken

I went to reach for the carton with the “large” on the side and I stopped. My brain was screaming at me. I saw the price and I immediately went into shock. Now it just goes to show how often I shop for food and how poor my memory really is. My mind was churning desperately trying to tell me that this was almost twice what I paid last time I bought eggs.

My hand stopped and I had difficulty pulling out of my mental dive. I desperately searched for safe landing and there out of the corner of my eye I saw it. On a different color carton was a price that I felt safe with. It was the price I paid last time for eggs. It was almost half the price of the carton of eggs that I was sent to get. Except the carton color was different and the label said “medium”. I hesitated because I was so well trained but I just couldn’t help myself. I picked up the carton and opened the lid. No cracked or broken eggs and they really didn’t look that much smaller than the large.

Carton in hand I paid for my eggs and I was on my way home thinking about how I would phrase the justification of my purchase. All sorts of scenarios went through my brain. Unfortunately all of them had my wife looking at me the same way Debra looks at Raymond on ‘Everyone Loves Raymond” when he does something stupid.

And that was exactly how it went.

“I got the eggs. I know that we get large but the medium was half the price…”

I could see her looking at me with that smirk on her face screaming, “I married an idiot but at least he’s cute”

The seconds ticked off in slow motion allowing that look of hers to have the desired effect.

She responded with “except all baking recipes call for LARGE eggs.”

Sitting down for breakfast the next morning I ruminated over the cute little eggs on my plate and the lack of any freshly baked goods. Buying on price alone doesn’t always get you what you want.

So the next time you see a commercial pushing a hand in the air pounding that price point into your brain think about what you really want. Don’t you want fresh sliced lettuce, red ripe tomatoes and quality cold cuts for only a few pennies more?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I’m not a good Customer

I am an easygoing man but sometimes things bother me. They’ll sit in my stomach like a pit making it difficult for me to digest.

Six months ago my wife and I decided that we really wanted food from one of our favorite small local restaurants. I could almost taste the delicious sauce from my regular dish as we entered the half-empty restaurant. The hostess smiled at us and grabbed some menus.

“Do you have a reservation?” he asked.

Smiling back and looking across the 10 empty tables I replied, “No we don’t”

A startled look came across his face and he looked back across the restaurant and saw something different than I had.

“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can seat you tonight”

A couple tables had reservation signs on them complete with menus and table settings but the remaining empty tables were not yet reserved or set for expectant guests. I was confused and then angry. The hostess walked away offering nothing to console me. No offer to seat us at the bar. No explanation about how they had a huge amount of reservations for the evening. No suggestions on how to avoid this problem in the future. No real apologies. What about take out?

I left feeling that I had been brutally kicked out. We had never needed reservations before. I didn’t even know that they took reservations. This is a small local restaurant and the hostess is also the owner who lives just down the street from me. Now I felt stupid and hungry.  We got pizza instead.

It took me six months to get over it. Or maybe more appropriately it took six months for my desire for that fabulous sauce of theirs to become bigger than the pit created by my experience. We stopped again without a reservation and asked for a table. The scene was remarkably similar to our last visit. The restaurant was half empty. Only a few tables with reservation cards…

“Do you have a reservation?” the hostess asked.

Smiling back and looking across the 10 empty tables I replied, “No we don’t”

He quickly scanned the restaurant and nervously looked back at me.

“I can’t sit you outside”

“That’s OK” I replied, “We want to sit indoors”

We followed him to a table in the corner by the bar and he seated us. Our meal was fabulous and the conversation exceptional. It took us a little over an hour to eat and in that time ALL the reserved tables remained empty. ALL the empty tables remained empty. Two other couples came in during that time. One waited 15 minutes for a table to open up on the half empty patio. The other decided to eat at the bar. I’m not sure if that they made that choice voluntarily or because they were told that there were no tables available.

 I’m not a good customer. This is a good restaurant but they are doing something extremely stupid. They are not managing their tables or customers very well. A small restaurant like theirs needs 3 turns for every table. Taking reservations and committing that table to just one turn for the evening is costing them revenue. If I were a good customer I would tell them.

Instead I won’t go back for another six months. I’ll let this experience sit in my stomach. It will take it that long to digest and when asked for a great place to eat I won’t mention their name like I used to.

I hope you aren’t like me. I hope you are a good customer. Please be a good customer. If Mr. Subb does something stupid, please tell us.