Going the extra mile

going the extra mileIt was an afternoon flight. And it was going to be a long week, so I paid a little more to get an upgrade. It was too late for lunch, and too early for dinner, so I didn’t expect anything in the way of food service.   To my surprise, they were serving a salad, garlic bread and a brownie. While I wasn’t hungry, the chocolate caught my attention. With my wheat allergy, I have to be careful, so I asked if it was gluten free. And to my disappointment, it was not. Oh well.

I quickly moved on to an intriguing conversation with my seat mate. About an hour later the flight attendant circled back with two mini chocolate bars – one for me and one for my seat mate. It was a little thing, but she made my day! She didn’t have to, but she went the extra mile to provide excellent customer service. Alaska Airlines prides themselves on their customer service. It is particularly impressive when the stated values align with actions and experiences. And in this case it did. How do you go the extra mile for the folks in and around your business?

p.s. I did write to Alaska about the experience!

Acting Quickly

act quicklyIt was a quick trip to Trader Joe’s to pick up half a dozen items. Walking across the parking lot, plotting my path, there was a wallet with a $20 bill peaking out right in the middle of the walkway. I picked it up thinking how panicked I would be if I lost mine in this day and age. Without opening it, I left it with the front desk thinking the person may still be in the store. Five minutes later, I was at the cashier.   And to my surprise, he asked if I lost my wallet. Wow! They had quickly notified all the cashiers within the space of a few minutes to try to reconnect the person with the wallet. What a great example of quickly adjusting to new circumstances in a way that is not disruptive to the ongoing operations. How are you able to act quickly as circumstances change in your world?

The Possibility of Being Wrong

possibility of being wrongWe all make mistakes at one time or another – even if we are sure we did everything right. Recently, I was involved in a situation where a package was sent to me that I didn’t receive. I was sure I didn’t have it, and the person that delivered it was sure that I did.

So how was the issue resolved? The person doing the delivery went through step by step to figure out where the package went. As it turns out, he delivered the package to the wrong place by accident. The person who got it didn’t pay attention and kept it. Ultimately, it was retrieved and returned to me.

At points along the way, I became concerned that the effort to resolve the situation wasn’t being taken seriously, that there was a view I had it and didn’t pay attention when I got it. The assumption was, I had made the mistake and not the folks who had delivered the package. It could have just as easily been me who made the mistake in the whole adventure. But in this case, it wasn’t.

Part of exceptional service is not casting blame, but allowing for the possibility of being wrong or making a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes at some point. Jumping to a conclusion on who is to blame isn’t helpful or productive. Figuring out why the mistake happened and making sure it doesn’t happen again does. At the end of the day, the customer will remember how the situation was handled as much as the final resolution. How do you allow for the possibility of being wrong?

Showing Up

showing upYears ago, a conversation grew around getting involved in an industry association. Money had been going out the door for years with no seeming return. After a few calls and discussions, the value provided was quite high. The problem was, people had changed in the company I worked for, connections were lost, and no one was showing up. Once we got involved – and started showing up – the relationship grew and blossomed. There was huge value involved on both sides. But, it took a bit of showing up on both sides to develop the relationship and see the importance on both ends.

Whether it is in business or in life, showing up is critical to forming and maintaining relationships. It involves being present – not just physically, but intellectually. In fact, you don’t always need to be physically present as long as a connection is maintained in a way that satisfies all parties. How are you showing up?

A Lasting Impression

make a lasting impressionNine years ago, I was working on my MBA. The mergers and acquisitions class was about to start and we were all excited because a classmate was able to convince the CEO of his company to teach the class. This was the CEO of a public company, on boards of other public companies and was on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In addition, he was involved in several ongoing mergers and acquisitions. Not a busy guy at all!

As each of us walked into the room for our first class, he greeted us by name. All 50 of us. There were no nametags, no name cards. He had clearly taken the time to look at the class photo book and learned each of our names and faces. I was impressed!

It has been nearly a decade and that experience is a hallmark for me in the impression and impact simply learning a name can have on the receiving end. While I aspire to be as good with names as Jim Hackett, I have a long way to go. What kind of impression do you want to make with others?

You caught my attention. Now what?

you got my attentionAs I was walking my dog through the nearby university campus, a young man crossed our path. He wore a large hat – almost a foot tall, had a beard, and was wearing a coat and tie. He had a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. My mind immediately went wandering. Was he giving a talk on leadership? Did he intend to dress like Abe Lincoln or was it just a coincidence? And just then he jumped up on a short wall and then right back off. My dog let out one loud bark as if to say: “You got my attention”. And just as fast, he was gone leaving me to wonder.

How often do you grab the attention of others in your business? Are potential customers intrigued by you, but left to wonder now what? How can you translate those moments into business?

Taking the Initiative and Providing Extraordinary Service

Extraordinary ServiceThe other night I was on my way to an informal dinner party. With a few stops on the way, I needed to pick up one item from the store for dinner. The thing was, it was not my regular store and the layout was a bit different. A woman was standing at the front of the aisles helping people find what they needed. I obviously looked like I needed help given I was clearly looking at the overhead signs. She pointed me in the right direction and I came back with my one item. By that time, she had shifted into the mode of directing people into the shortest line. She grabbed me and opened up a lane to help me get through quickly. This was Safeway! I was impressed by how this woman was empowered to get customers what they needed quickly, then quickly checked out and on their way. How are your people empowered to shift priorities and provide extraordinary service to customers?

Do you believe?

Do you believe?Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations with people about whether it is necessary to believe in and support the products or services that a company provides in order to work there. On one side of the argument, people take the position that as long as you have the skills that the company needs, it makes sense to work there. Fulfillment can come from bringing a perspective the company doesn’t currently have. The other side of the argument is that you must believe in the company’s products or services as a prerequisite to working there. There is an essence of believing that is necessary to really do your best work.

My perspective is aligned with the later. It is that intangible element that makes the difference between high performing and average companies. When people believe in what they do and get satisfaction from providing a good or service that they believe in, the company does better and the people are more satisfied. It is a virtuous cycle because the people and the company are providing a product or service that is valuable to its customers. It is meeting a need that has not been satisfied without it. Ultimately there is alignment between the needs of all the stakeholders. Where do you stand on the continuum?

Is your front line prepared?

is your front line preparedThe street by my house was partially closed to traffic, requiring flaggers to safely direct traffic. No advance warning, just what appeared to be a weeks worth of utility work. While out walking my dog, I spoke with one of the flaggers. He was very friendly and happy to speak with me. The only issue was – no one told him what was going on. He didn’t know the length of the project, and could only guess based on what he saw. He probably received inquiries multiple times during the course of the day given the high traffic area.

Situations like this exist all over the place and your front line is the first window people have into your business. It’s a great opportunity to arm folks with useful information for customers, potential customers or folks that come into contact with your business. You know the difference when you have a great experience with a business versus one that leaves you left wondering. Is your front line prepared?

Are you missing sales opportunities?

missed salesI love Starbucks. Yes, I’ve fallen into the wide swath of followers that pop in on a regular basis. The product is always consistent and I know that anywhere in the world, I can count on it. But, I’ve been surprised lately by how early in the day they run out of food. I regularly frequent five different locations and have found at each location the salads (as well as all fresh items) ran out starting at 2:00 and over a period of weeks worked down to stock outs by 9:00 am. I’ve inquired at each store about this and all tell me they regularly run out of food early in the day, leaving many like me to search for lunch (or other food options) elsewhere. Wow! What a missed opportunity.

That got me to thinking about why this is happening. Is it lack of understanding of the true demand of the product? Does anyone look at what time of day food runs out? Surely, the cost of goods potentially not sold is so minor in comparison to the number of sales they are missing. Is there a supply chain problem somewhere (the situation became a supplier issue with no fresh food for a week)? I don’t really know, but as a customer, I’m frequently disappointed. So, how are you making sure you aren’t missing opportunities to satisfy the demand for your product? Do you have mechanisms in place to understand what your customers want and when? Do you have a supply chain that works and can seamlessly address any supplier failures? How do you not miss that sale?