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?