Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Up your organization

In the 1960s, Robert Townsend revived Avis from a basket case, establishing it on the clear path to becoming the #1 car rental agency in the world. When he finished up turning Avis around, he wrote a landmark book, “Up the Organization….How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits.” It is laid out alphabetically and starts with a bang: Advertising…”Fire the whole advertising department.” The book conatins so many gems that are still relevant today, as you easily work through the alphabet. It is an easy read, yet seems a difficult book for companies to implement.

One very useful nugget, that does not often seem to be practiced…under ‘C”, he suggests that senior executives “Call yourself up….try calling yourself up and see what indignities you have built into your own defences.”

In Air Canada’s case, I guess you would send yourself a fax instead (http://ckaics.blogspot.com/2011/08/if-you-have-problem-or-question-send.html).

Imagine how much you can learn about how your company treats its customers by simply being one. Brilliant!

Another idea that has always struck me as simple, but brilliant…have your senior executive talk to your customers. All of your senior executive, not just the ones whose job it is to do this. You will learn so much from finding out what your customer wants, needs and is frustrated by.

I came across an interesting website, by Bruce Temkin, called experiencematters.wordpress.com, which is about “building loyalty through Customer Experience”. This tidbit was posted:
There was an interesting article in the LA Times about Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph's view of service. It turns out that the 86 year-old Joseph (who’s net worth is more than $1 billion) receives eight or nine letters from customers each month and, in most cases, he calls the customer.
Here’s what Joseph says about his actions:
You used to be able to pick up a phone and talk to people. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now there’s e-mail and automated switchboards. People want to talk to people. They want to talk to people who are knowledgeable and who can answer questions.
Bruce calls this activity of senior executives systematically talking with customers, ”continuous listening”. Powerful stuff, talking to the customers.

Another thing the senior executive should spend some time doing is navigating their company’s web site. Do it from home, sometime, as if you are just another customer. Can you find everything you want?

$8.23 without salad, $6.89 with salad

This is nuts. Even though I have a dinner all ready planned and executed, I am in line at KFC, because it is Sue’s birthday and she has a craving. I can fit 4 pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken into the plan. So I order 4 pieces, no fries, no salad, no super-sized pop. Just chicken.

That will be $8.23.

However, if I would like a salad it will be only $6.89.

Huh? While it is excellent when business strives to deliver more and charge less, it just does not make sense to me that I can save $1.34 but agreeing to take one of their salads.

The lady behind the counter has been serving chicken, fries and salad for ever. I asked her if this makes sense to her? She just smiled wearily and asked me which salad I would like with my chicken?

I have never been fond of KFC’s salads. It seems that even KFC might be aware that their salads need some work, because one of my university class mates did a market research assignment for KFC on some new salads that they were thinking of introducing. Mind you, they never did introduce the new salads.

Notwithstanding, today I will take one of their salads and throw it out when I get home, to save $1.34.

Britney Spears, defused...

It was a classic “I told you so moment.” I am however blessed with a wife who rarely seizes these opportunities. Sue is very uncomfortable when I purchase tickets from scalpers, and does her very best to demonstrate to anybody watching that she is not with me, does not know me. In my defence, we had tried to buy Britney’s Circus tickets legitimately but amazingly Ticketmaster has sold out the Air Canada Centre in less than 15 seconds. We were second in line, but only the first people in line got tickets. Incredible! The ACC seats 19,800 people for a concert.

So, I scalped Britney Spears tickets instead.

Imagine my surprise when I presented them at the entrance and was told the seats were already filled. The tickets were confiscated. I ran outside to confront the scalper…I am angry, my pride is wounded, I am embarrassed. A Katrina of emotions is hurricaning inside me.

But the scalper is gone. The other scalpers circle the wagons….they don’t know where he is, tough luck, that’s what happens sometimes.

The next night, I return to the ACC for Britney’s second show. No, no way will Sue allow me to scalp again. I am just hoping to confront the scalper.

I see him. He is alone. I am going to confront him.

He sees me.

He extends his hand….he wants to shake my hand…he says “Man, I am so sorry about that. Those tickets, really sorry. Do you want your money back, or some other tickets.”

Once I picked my jaw up off the sidewalk, Shannon gave me a set of tickets, we shook hands, he gave me his business card, and we went into the ACC to enjoy the show.

Now, if I see Shannon, he gets all my scalping business (yes, the upside is that Sue still allows me to buy off scalpers for some shows).

A sincere “I am sorry” is a deadly tool in defusing an otherwise awkward customer service situation. I am grateful to Shannon for reminding me of this valuable lesson.

when did McDonald's stop serving fast food?

And why?

There was a McDonald's across from our high school; it was a great place to grab some lunch, because it was served within seconds of ordering, which meant that you still had time for a few rounds of euchre.

Twenty years on, I admit I don’t go into MacDonald’s all that often anymore. I like Wendy’s choices because they have better salads and baked potatoes, all of which are theoretically easier on my no-longer-high-school-figure. However, when we are headed up Highway 400 to the boat, the one in Barrie is a great place to stop and let our dog Jasper have a run. Sometimes, I pop in, usually for one of those trusty old favourites such as a Big Mac or a bacon and egg McMuffin. Or at least I used to. I was astounded when the Big Mac took over five minutes to be served. Heads would have rolled in the old days. I know this because my best friend was the swing manager at that one across from the high school.

Fool me once, shame on you. Serve me slow twice, shame on me. The very next visit, the bacon and egg McMuffin took 12 minutes. We’re sorry for the wait. Move along.

What I cannot figure out is why.

In the old days there was more production for the bin, in case of demand. This I also know because if I stopped in at the end of my friend’s swing shift, there was usually something left over. Perhaps because the product line is so much broader, there is nothing cooked until it is ordered. Still, Wendy’s chili on a baked potato is quickly served.

It is a very busy McDonald’s…lots of buses stop here. That should be incentive to be very efficient. Oddly, it is apparently not.

It is not a staffing issue, because there are a lot of people there milling around behind the counter. It might be a management issue, because as I observe them for 12 minutes some of the staff do not appear to be doing all that much.

Whatever the reason, I don’t stop there any more. Instead, I go on to the Lick’s Hamburgers further up the road. There, at least I will be entertained with great music and a smile while I wait for my freshly cooked hamburger to come up, prepared exactly the way I want it.

Lesson- if it can’t be fast, then it should at least be an event.

if you have a problem or question, send Air Canada a fax...

I thought the 2000s would be the angry decade however, it turned out to be more confused than irritated. Although, I often noticed an under current, although it might have been just me, well on the path to a curmudgeon. However, sitting here at the airport, having arrived at 3 o'clock for my 6 o'clock flight, to find that it has been cancelled and that I am now flying at 8:30, I wonder if there might not be some eruptions in 2010s.If so, Air Canada is well positioned. There is not a single AC person at the airport who can adequately explain or make restitution for the cancelled flight. Not Andrea 005371. Instead, I can fax Air Canada, and someone will respond. Not email, on the cusp of 2010, and not a phone call, no way. Fax.Brilliant.What a terrific way to deflect an irate passenger. If you disagree with this, please send me a fax....in 1993.

My recommendation-

If you are going to insulate yourself from your customers and be inaccessible, then you need to buffer your front line staff, as they will bear the brunt of your customers’ displeasure. In the 1900s, businesses started to empower their employees. In this particular instance, the front line really only needs to be empowered to disclose whatever information is available. The news had already been in the press that there was some situation involving a bomb on a flight coming in to the U.S. The upheaval that this created turned out to be far reaching but, at the time, it meant that the plane for our 6 o’clock flight was not likely getting in until 10:15. We were instead put on to the 8:30 flight.
An information burst could be sent to each terminal.
If keeping your front line staff informed is too scary a concept, then certainly the on site manager, “Andrea 005371” should be empowered with some information. It is not likely to defuse the situation when an on site manager says to a customer, “I am going to stop talking to you now”, which is (paraphrased) what Andrea 005371 said to me.

your call is not all that important to Aeroplan

Well, at least Aeroplan doesn’t say “your call is important to us”.

I want to find out about the new Aeroplan card that will shower me with unimagined rewards. I have received an email that I really must get one to unlock the door to untold wealth and tremendous partner opportunities.

All I need is my tangerine Aeroplan card!

All right, I will bite. So how do I get one?

According to the email, call 1-800-361-5373.

“Welcome to Aeroplan. You should really go to our web site to satisfy your every need and desire, but if you are a techno Pleistocene then stay on the line.” Granted, that is not verbatim, but that is the gist of the welcome.

So, if that is the case, shouldn’t the details about the new card that Aeroplan just sent out in an email be front and centre on aeroplan.com, rather than not to be found anywhere?

Or shouldn’t there be explicit details on how to get one in the email?

Or shouldn’t there be a reply to option on the email?

“To proceed in English, press 1”
“Pour Francais, poussez 2”

I press “1”.

“To collect reward miles, press 1”
“To update you personal information, press 2”
“To enquire about reward miles not shown on your statement, please submit a written enquiry including original statements and your first born to etc. etc.” I am not really listening because this is not my issue.
“To check flights or make a reservation, call…”
“For other inquiries press 4”

What? No “to speak to a representative, press” option. Did I miss what happens if I press 3? Was that when I zoned out? Did I miss the “To find out more about our brand new tangerine card, press…” What should I press?

Let’s try 4.

“To speak to a local representative, press 4”

Now we are getting somewhere.

Pressing 4 gets me a long coast-to-coast list of local phone numbers for every Aeroplan office across the country. As I listen through the long list, finally, 3 minutes later, I have the phone number for Toronto (and Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Sudbury…)

Now we are really getting somewhere. Someone in Toronto will know about the tangerine card! They will know how I can realize on the Aeroplan dream! They will have the key!

I dial 416-413-0300. It’s ringing! I have an answer!

“We’re sorry…the number you have dialed is disconnected.”

Aeroplan was at one time related to Air Canada….it appears they have been taking lessons from their sister company, in terms of inaccessibility.

Aeroplan is fortunate in that they effectively have a monopoly. If I am attempting to contact a company and they have competition, and it is too frustrating, I will call the competition.

The company that makes it easiest on its customer is the one that wins.

Friday, December 11, 2009

11 McDonald's staff and no mcmuffin...

Quality. Service. Value. And cleanliness.
These were McDonald's closely and deeply held values, once upon a time.
Maybe they still are, but I have found the service part lacking, as I drive around the highways in Ontario, Canada.
On November 28, 2009, I stopped at the McDonald's on highway 401 by Cambridge. It is a great place to let our dog Jasper stretch her legs on the way to visit her vet. After throwing her frisbee a few times, I am often in the mood for some breakfast.
At the service counter, I had enough time to count 11 staff, before I gave up and left. Five of them were clustered with the manager, seemingly discussing something important, but the other six were...well, not rushing to ask me what I wanted. Not even the two staff that looked me directly in the eye.
There is a Starbucks close to our dog's vet. They serve great breakfast sandwiches.
This is the first time I have been ignored at McDonald's, but it is not the first time that I noticed that the S in QSVC is missing. I sent msyelf an email on May 2, 2007 from the counter of the McDonald's on the 400, just south of Barrie. It took 5 minutes to serve me two breakfast burritos. I was surprised...until the next time I stopped at this McDonald's, when it took over ten minutes to fill my order!

At least the washrooms are still kept clean!