Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Experience with Great Product Tainted by Service

OK "Tainted" is too harsh. It was the only food related term that came to mind quickly. I recently celebrated a wedding anniversary. I decided to send an Edible Arrangement to my wife at her place of employment in lieu of flowers. The arrangement was very impressive. I was pleasantly surprised that it was larger than I expected. It was more unique than a bouquet of flowers. The product was great! My wife was 100% satisfied by the experience, which is the most important thing.

As a person that has spent an entire career in executing continuous improvement, there were two clear opportunities for improvement related to the service part of the experience.

The first is easily corrected. When the arrangement was delivered to my wife, it was delivered with a catalog and price list. If a flower shop delivers a bouquet of flowers, I am reasonably sure they don’t deliver marketing material to the recipient. I called Edible Arrangements and suggested that their delivery person should be instructed to leave the marketing materials with the office manager and express that it should not be delivered to the recipient. [update 2/25/2009: the owner called me back and he was the one who delivered the arrangement. He actually did tell the office the arrangement was to be delivered to my wife and the catalog was for the office. The office was responsible for passing on the catalog/price list.]

The second aspect with room for improvement relates to delivery orders only. The website allows you to select the following day for delivery, for which a nominal delivery fee will be charged. However, in several places on the website it expresses that delivery dates are not guaranteed. As a consumer, despite the warnings, we all expect our deliveries to be made on time regardless of the lack of guaranteed delivery. I called the following day to verify that it would be delivered that day. Again I was told that the delivery dates are not guaranteed, but Andrey was confident it would be delivered on time (which it was; it was even delivered according to my special request for a specific time to make sure she was still at work when it was delivered). That exchange made me wonder, how many times per year is the delivery not actually made on the requested date? If it was a small percentage, is it worth making every possible consumer be concerned about the delivery, just to prevent a handful from being thoroughly upset? From a marketing perspective how much is that concern worth? If a few people were upset by a lack of on-time delivery, it would probably put an adequate amount of pressure on driving to root cause the reasons for not meeting the requested date.

Support your local community businesses, and if there is room for improvement, tell them (nicely). It takes a lot of hard work, passion, and dedication to build and maintain a business in this economy. Most of the time, they want the opportunity to Wow us.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Punxsutawney Phil is let go with 6 weeks of severance

This morning in the parking lot on the way into our office complex, I had a short conversation with a local small business owner, Tom (not his real name). I was lamenting about the fact that 8 of the last 9 years (including this year), Phil (the groundhog) saw his shadow and curses us with another 6 weeks of winter. I wasn’t looking forward to a treacherous 30 mile drive to Auburn, Indiana in the winter weather the following morning. Tom commented that Phil should consider that in this economy, he could be replaced.

The underlying wisdom in the brief entertaining water cooler conversation into the building is that it is more important than ever to listen to the voice of the customer (me - wanting an early Spring). Fortunately for Phil, his heritage affords him a permanent position predicting the arrival of spring. The rest of us need to focus on the value our customers recognize in our work.