Do you have stuffed olives?

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As you kick off the year and focus on having a great 2014, take a step back and ask yourself – What can I do to better serve my customers? 

The best way to answer this question is really quite basic. Put a feedback loop in place.  Make sure you have a communications process in place to ask your sales people, your waiters and waitresses, your customer service people, your delivery people – anyone who has interactions with prospects or customers:  What do they ask for that we are not providing?

So what do stuffed olives have to do with this blog? 

I can’t take the marketer out of me. I can’t put my customer-centric mindset aside – whether it’s watching TV and analyzing the commercials, driving by a commercial vehicle on the highway and noting the poor branding or unreadable graphics, or going out to dinner with my family. I see opportunities. I see simple ways to improve customer service, simple ways to improve one’s message, be consistent with imagery and ways to “wow” the customer. The example to highlight my point is stuffed olives.

When we go out to dinner, I know what the request will be of the bartender or waiter/waitress before we leave our home. My husband will ask – “do you have stuffed olives?”  as he orders his martini. The best and hoped-for answer is – “of course” and then indicate they stuff them with fresh bleu cheese. Nice! The evening is off to a good start. The most common answer, however, is an immediate, no hesitation “No”. The missed opportunity is that 90% of the places have olives and they have bleu cheese. The sad part is no consideration, no offer to take the pimento out and put some bleu cheese in for voila, a stuffed olive!  They simply and quickly say ‘no’ and move on to taking the drink order. Lesson #1 – clue your employees into the simple missed opportunity; the opportunity to say yes and make it happen without a lot of effort or negative impact on margins. Pretty simple stuff.

Lesson #2 – As the owner, President or CEO, are you even aware of what your customers or prospects are asking for and getting the answer of ‘no’?  This is the part of the dinner where I get on my soap box – I comment to my kids and husband that I bet them that no one ever shares with the manager or the owner that people are even asking for stuffed olives. The feedback loop is likely nonexistent. Do you have an easy way to gather more info so you are in the know and can make an informed business decision about whether you will choose to offer your business equivalent of the ‘stuffed olive’ example? Suggestion: put a feedback loop in place for 2014! In this example, a waiter or bartender could simply leave a note or post an email every day of requests they receive that aren’t met. For other organizations, a sales person could share in a weekly call or put in their call report. Customer service could have a simple email that they capture the patterns of one or many. The point of lesson #2 is this feedback loop does not have to be complex or process-heavy. Make it happen – I bet you you’ll identify something that you can do in Q1 of 2014 to improve how you are serving your target audience.

This overused acronym does apply here (sorry)  K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple stupid. Put in some consistent process that enables you to have a better handle on what your customers are looking for and then deliver it. Don’t treat this as a New Rear’s Resolution as if you do, like most resolutions, it will not last until Valentine’s Day. Just do it consistently and let your team know it is not a fad, but a smart way of doing business. Listen. Don’t say no – work on saying yes more.

Go find out what the equivalent of having stuffed olives is for your business. It may surprise you and help 2014 results. Cheers!

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