Monday, April 13, 2009

Right Tool + Wrong Approach = FAIL!

Okay, I saw something interesting today (I think every day holds something interesting to notice if we pay attention). Anyway, walking into a store from the parking lot, a man was trying to help a teen-aged girl who had locked her keys in her car. He had a "slim jim" (an illegal tool that cops and n'er-do-wells use to gain access into a car quickly when needed) and was doing his best to unlock the door.

Here's the hilarious/relevant part...

Normally, when you use this tool, you slide it between the window and the door and run it along the length of the door until you find the locking mechanism (do NOT ask me how I know this). Done correctly, it typically takes about 5-10 seconds.

Based on the expressions on both their faces (and the sweat pouring off the guy), it was obvious this guy had been working at this problem a long time. Unfortunately (...wait for it...), he was placing the "slim jim" into the TOP of the window and bending it, etc. like people used to do when using a coat hanger to unlock the old flared door locks!

It took me a minute or so to enjoy the humor/stifle my laughter before I offered to help. (Of course, I'm not admitting actually using the illegal tool to help, I'm just saying "I helped"...ahem.)

Anyway, it's interesting to me how this situation mirrors business life in other ways. We can have a great tool that really works well, and screw it up by using the tool the wrong way. Sometimes our old thinking/approach undermines the new tool. The resulting failure is then mistakenly blamed on the tool and not the person wielding the tool. This is why is so valuable to have someone who has been there and used the tool - real life, not just theoretically - to show the way.

I've noticed something else very interesting: When experienced people who have had real success with the real (new) tools are successful in making things dramatically improve - the people who used the same tool ineffectively are typically mystified - often making lame excuses such as the successful people "have better circumstances" or "there must be something missing that caused me to fail".

Self-deceived whiners. The truth is, if someone - anyone - is successful with an approach/tool, then that approach/tool can be adapted to fit your circumstance...if the critical aspects are implemented properly.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's Always "That Little Extra"

It is often said that the difference between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" is that "little extra". Small gestures from Front Line employees seem to have the biggest impact.

Think about all those stories you hear about (whether good or bad) and they are almost always about what a Front Line employee did...or didn't do.

Take for example a recent experience I had: I was recently on a business trip to Europe, flying from Prague to Amsterdam, when a customer in line ahead of me attempted to board the plane. Her interaction with the KLM Airlines agent went like this:

Passenger hands agent her boarding ticket.
Agent: "Your ticket is for Frankfurt. Can't you read? This flight is to Amsterdam."
Agent thrusts ticket back to customer.
Agent yells out to the waiting gate full of passengers "Read the signs people! You're slowing down the process! This flight is for Amsterdam!"
Agent says to colleague, loudly enough for someone (me) about 15 feet away to hear "Unbelievable!
Agent's colleagues laughs, shakes head and says "Idioten" (Obviously, the Dutch word for "idiots" - even for those who don't speak Dutch.)

This entire experience took just 10 seconds. How long do you think the impact will last for all those who witnessed it?

Companies thrive only when their Front Line employees understand the impact that every little gesture has on their customers - and act on that awareness for the betterment of each customer experience.

It won't happen by accident. In these difficult times, none of us can afford to have our customers experience anything less than the positive kinds of surprises that transform them into loyal advocates for our brand. What are you doing to ensure this is consistently happening on purpose?

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!