Providing The World With The Ultimate Customer Experience

Lucky's Blog

This blog has been created to keep our customers, partners and friends up to date with pertinent information relating to our industry, technical or otherwise. It will also keep everyone up to date with M.C. Dean's ever expanding capabilities. Thanks to all my followers and I hope you find this blog both helpfull and informative. Best Regards: Lucky Drake

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Customer Experience

When I first came to M.C. Dean, one of the first things I did was to implement the Ultimate Customer Experience (UCE). What is the UCE? Good Question. The UCE is an internal plan I developed a long time ago to set myself apart from the competition. It is a series of actions to help improve our customer’s overall experience with the company. This simple action plan is used to help improve our image, brand, and how the customer feels after we have left the job. From the first contact, to the completion of the project, the UCE goes through a step by step process to put the customer first and show pride in everything we do.

I originally got the idea after buying a car from an Arrigo dealership in Palm Beach Florida. Buying a car has always been an unpleasant experience for most people. This particular dealership made an effort to make buying a new car a pleasurable experience. No haggling to get the best price, no high pressure sales people, no stupid questions, just great service at a great price. Since then, every time I have bought a car, I have continued to travel to West Palm Beach to buy through this dealership, and every time it is a pleasure to do business with them.

I figured out that if they can make buying a car pleasurable, then I should be able to make using an electrical service just as pleasurable and the UCE was born. Obviously I cannot divulge specifics about the UCE but it exists everywhere if you look around.

Ever wonder why Best Buy continues to crush their competition? Think about it! There are many bargain big box retailers that have the same products for less money. Why would someone go to a place where they know the product will cost them more? Simple! Whenever I plan to buy any electronic device, I only go to Best Buy because of the customer experience. I can go into a Best Buy and be greeted almost immediately by someone who asks me if they can help. No commission based sales people, just employees that truly want to make sure I get exactly what I need from the store. The associate will spend a limitless amount of time telling me all I want to know about the product, from a highly technical perspective or a simple consumer’s point of view. Best Buy’s associates always seem to be very well trained on all the products they offer. They will ask me specific questions about what I like and how I plan to use it and will narrow it down to the perfect product for me, whether or not that happens to be the most expensive, or the cheapest product. They only care about my overall experience. Then once I select the product, the associate will walk me to the cashier and check me out, no lines no waiting. I am in and out quickly with the perfect product for my lifestyle. No one tried to make me fit into their product, or sell me the most expensive product and accessories to boost their commission. This is what I mean by the customer experience. It is not always about price, even in today’s economy.

On the other side, my wife and I took a trip to Las Vegas a couple months back. All I ever heard was how amazing Vegas was and how you have unlimited food, drinks, entertainment, etc… anything to keep you in their hotel. From the moment we checked into Treasure Island, the experience was horrible. We stood in line for nearly an hour just to check in. They had a check-in counter that was a half a mile long but only two people working behind it. We were some of the lucky ones, since they actually had a room ready for us when we got up to the counter. Unfortunately the rest of the nearly 100 people behind us would be sent away until the cleaning crews had finished prepping more rooms. Really? You had reservations! It couldn’t have been a surprise how many people where going to check in that day.

Things just got worse from there, from the $28 dollar a person buffet filled with substandard food, to the joke of a show performed outside on a pirate ship. Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they locked us out of our room and told us that we had only reserved one night, even though we had proof that we had booked it for the following three days. They would not let us in the room to get our proof, and told us that all our stuff was probably in lost and found. Probably?! They didn’t even know where our stuff was? After what seemed like hours of screaming and yelling, we finally got back into our room where all our stuff was still untouched, thank God. Up until that point we had visions in our heads of people picking through our personal belongings in a lost and found room. We showed them the proof that we were right and they were wrong, to which we got a “Sorry for any inconvenience” from the night manager. No comps, no free buffet vouchers, no credit vouchers, nothing-- after wasting several hours of our time that extended into the wee hours of the morning! Not what you would have expected. There were several more examples that Treasure Island could care less about their customers, but I won’t bore you with those, I think I got my point across.

While the Treasure Island example is on the bottom of a customer experience scale, you would be surprised how many companies don’t rank much above that. How many times have you gone out to dinner just to be ignored by the wait staff? How many times have you stood in line at the DMV like cattle waiting to be butchered? There are more examples of poor service in our world today than of superior customer service. In this economy, you can’t afford to disappoint a customer. Like the old saying goes, ‘if you are not willing to take care of your customer somebody else will!’

Throughout my career I have dedicated my efforts to one principle, ‘Because of the customer, we exist!’ I will not tolerate even average customer service from any member of my team, let alone poor service. The only way to survive in today’s economy is to offer superior customer service and quality, at a fair price. People will always be willing to pay a little more for true quality and a good buying experience. If not, Best Buy, Target, Rolex, etc… would not exist.

So the question you have to ask yourself is; do you have an Arrigo or a Treasure Island kind of philosophy? Pay attention to your customer’s needs, listen to their problems, and offer quality solutions, or somebody may be writing a blog comparing you to Treasure Island. (((Ouch)))

Thursday, July 21, 2011

High Performers Are Grown Not Found

I was asked the other day, “How do you find so many great employees”? The answer is you don’t! I am very proud to have the pleasure of working with some of the best people in the industry. They are not “employees” but team members, and I am as close to most of these people as I am with my own family. Actually when you think about it, I spend more hours a week with them, than I do with my own family. You have to feel this about your team if you ever want to be successful. Rarely will a person give you their unwavering loyalty if they don’t believe that you truly care about them first.

I have made it a point throughout my career to hire people with the right attitude and mind set, more than looking at candidates with the proper skill sets and resumes. I know that many companies focus on degrees, and the quality of the resume. However, they spend little time getting to know the person and their qualities. Over the years I have had my fair share of employees that were over qualified and under motivated thrust upon me, and was expected to continue offering the same level of customer experience and profitability. It seems more often to be the case that these types of individuals can’t seem to follow directions. They are incapable of learning anything, because in their mind they already know everything. Even after several discussions and warnings about what they are doing wrong or need to improve on, they only hear the compliments and ignore the constructive criticisms. Then when it comes time to remove them from the team, like the cancer that they are, they are shocked and don’t understand what they did wrong.

The problem with employees that boast an impressive background and years of experience is that along with those credentials comes an ego to match, and years of bad habits. It is much harder to break someone of their bad habits than to teach someone the right way upfront. I always preach to my team members, if you hire someone with the right attitude and train them, they will only know one way to do things, your way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that my way is the only right way to do things. What I am saying is that everyone has different ways to get things accomplished, and different companies have different policies. If you have a particular structure of how things get done, you want everyone to follow that format. Along the way there are things that can be modified, improved, or changed, but that is done through collaboration and teamwork, not unilaterally by one person who is convinced of their preeminence.

So how do you find and grow the right team members? The easy answer is, find the people with the right personality traits and give them the proper training and support. You need to understand what you are looking for in order to find the right personality traits. For example: you wouldn’t want someone that is overly aggressive to handle customer service complaints, nor would you want someone who is an introvert to be your head sales person. There are many types of personality tests out there that can give you a good insight into a person’s personality traits. While I highly support these tests, I also think that you need to spend some time with a candidate before making a decision on hiring them since some people just don’t test well.

Too many companies put ads out and then have one, maybe two, half hour interviews and then make a decision. I challenge everyone, to have multiple interviews and take them out of the office and spend some real time getting to know who they are and how they will add value to your team.

Once you have decided on whom to add to your team, your job as a manager is to understand their goals and aspirations and help them achieve those objectives. You have to truly make their career a priority point of your efforts.

The final portion on growing a high performing team member is support. If you go back through my blog you will find a series called the “football management style”. This describes in detail what a manager needs to do to develop a high performing team. The same holds true for an individual, your team is only as strong as its weakest member and the lessons taught in that series applies to a team of one or more.

When I think of quality people it makes me think about tomatoes. What? Tomatoes? Stay with me here, I promise I haven’t lost my mind. A friend of mine went to Italy for a vacation. He sent me a post card from Florence raving about the tomatoes he had there. Over the next several days I received texts and emails from him raving about the food and the wine. Upon returning to the states we got together and he went on and on about how amazing the food was in Florence. He had never tasted anything like it before. I thought to myself, how great can it be? I mean we have some pretty good restaurants here and I came from an Italian family up-bringing, I’ve had real homemade Italian food.

Over the next several months, my friend kept telling me how he had to readjust to the “American food”. He claimed he was ruined for life after eating in Italy. It wasn’t much after that, I was watching a special on The Food Network about Italian food. They went into the whole history of Italian farmers, and how their family’s reputation rested upon the quality of their tomatoes. Generation after generation has cultivated the land and built their farms in the perfect weather conditions for growing tomatoes for the sole intent of producing the greatest tomatoes ever grown. They further went on to explain that Florence was the leader in producing the best tomatoes Italy had to offer. Things started to come together and I began to understand where my friend was coming from.

The next day I started thinking about the story. I also started thinking about the years of dedication it took to produce such a spectacular product. Then, as I do with everything, I started applying it to work related issues.

Consider how this applies to the above subject of hiring the right people. The chance of you going out and buying the perfect tomato right off the shelf (hiring the perfect team member) is unlikely. If you want perfection, you will have to put the effort into growing it. The first step is to make sure that you have the right seed (attitude & ethics). Then you must have the right soil and atmospheric conditions (working environment). Finally, you must tend to your tomato plant and put effort into supporting, pruning, and cultivating the plant and enriching the soil (support, training, re-investment, etc…). All of these lessons apply to growing a high performing team member. Only when you dedicate yourself to growing a premium product can you expect to cultivate excellence.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Shovel

The Shovel

A pretty funny thing happened between my wife and me, and I thought everyone might get a kick out of the story. It also shows the importance of training in the workplace.

One beautiful Florida day my wife and I were working outside in the yard. My wife loves gardening and I was pressure washing the driveway. My wife had decided that she wanted to dig up a large area of the yard to build a berm and add some new landscaping. This required quite a bit of digging with a shovel. She had little experience using a shovel for anything more than a few minutes at a time and was having a really hard time with the task she had undertaken. Seeing that she was struggling I walked over to her and asked her if she knew how to use a shovel. She looked at me with a snide grin and said “You are not funny. Just go back to your pressure cleaning.” So I walked away figuring she didn’t want my help.

After a couple more hours she was really struggling, covered with sweat, and obviously angry. Once again I walked over to her and said “Why don’t you let me show you how to use that shovel.” She said “seriously, if you don’t get away from me I am going to hit you over the head with this shovel.” Once again I walked away and figured you can’t teach a giraffe to water ski.

Later that night, my wife and I were having dinner, and she was complaining about how bad her back, hands, and feet, hurt from all the work she had done in the yard. I sympathized with her but explained she wouldn’t be in as much pain, if she would have used the proper form and techniques when digging. She looked at me with dismay and said “what?” I told her I had been trying to show her the proper way to use a shovel all day but she kept dismissing my attempts. She said she thought I was just being a smart @#$. (I guess I should let everyone know I do have a tendency of being that way from time to time.) She further stated, “who would have thought that you could use a shovel wrong?”

Of course by the end of dinner the whole thing was my fault, and I was the bad guy for not explaining that I wasn’t kidding, there really is a right way and a wrong way to use a shovel. I made up for my wicked ways by rubbing her back and feet and finishing the digging the next day.

The reason for this story is to illustrate the importance of training for your team. Just asking them if they need any help isn’t enough. To start with they may not think you are sincere, as my wife did in the above example. Secondly, they may be afraid to say they don’t know how to do something. Think about it, how many people would honestly say, “I don’t know how to use a shovel.” Sounds ridiculous, but in most cases people don’t know the correct way to use a shovel.

Training is one of the most important things you can do to promote the success of your team. You should always be training your team, from the newest member, to your most senior member. I have been doing this same job for most my life and I still don’t know everything, and I still enjoy training. There are many areas where I can expand my knowledge base, and even on subjects I think I’m pretty proficient in; I tend to learn something new. Then again, with my memory, maybe I just forgot it. Either way, it is good to refresh information you think you already know. I have always tried to act with the philosophy that I am training my replacement. I want to surround myself with the smartest and most driven people in the industry, and teach them how to move up the company’s corporate ladder, and eventually replace myself. Unfortunately, not everyone subscribes to this school of thought, and in fact many are afraid to give their team training for fear they will replace them. I believe that to be successful you need a team of people that want your job, and it is my responsibility to help them take it from me.

I hope you enjoyed the story and find value in its teaching.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kenny Rogers Roasters

Kenny Rogers Roasters

So here I am writing about a chicken place? What does chicken have to do with business? I started this blog to offer valuable information and insight to anyone who would like to hear it. Today is different though. This blog poses a question to you. I have been wondering what makes good companies go out of business. Over the years I have known of many companies that had a good business model, a solid product or service and couldn’t seem to make it. While I understand that there are many things that play into a company’s success outside of actual product and service, sometimes you just have to sit back and say, “ hmm….”

I can’t think of a better example than Kenny Rogers Roasters. For the younger folks I am not talking about the hybrid “Roaster” you can still find in gas stations and malls that serve a dried out old nasty piece of chicken, I am talking about the actual brick and mortar restaurants, that used to exist before Kenny Rogers Roasters went under.

Many of you can remember the slogan “It’s the wood that makes it good”. Kenny Rogers had one of the first and best rotisserie restaurant chains. I can remember walking in to the restaurant and hearing my stomach growl as soon as I would smell the burning hickory. To date, I don’t think I have had better rotisserie chicken and ribs, not to mention, the amazing corn muffins and chocolate cake.

If that wasn’t enough, the wait staff was always dressed well and very pleasant. The restaurants were extremely clean, and you never had to wait for your food. Most of the locations would be in high traffic areas, and seemed to always be packed full of satisfied customers. There was even a Seinfeld episode about how addictively good Kenny’s chicken was, if you make it onto Seinfeld, you have to be good!

So this brings me back to my question. How can a business that does everything right, go out of business? You have to assume that someone like Kenny Rogers would have had substantial resources for the business management side. That should have kept the business model and financials sound. Everybody knows that it wasn’t the cheapest place to eat, so I know they could have made profits when compared to the competition. When you take that into account along with great locations, great customer service, superior product, and a huge following, how do you fail? Seriously, how does Pollo Tropical and Boston Market take your market share?

I know that by this point everybody is expecting some insightful explanation from me, but the truth is I don’t have one. This scenario has always intrigued me, and I am hoping one of my many followers could help shed some light on this topic. I really want to know how companies that seem to do everything right fail. Let’s discuss, and thank you in advance for any comments.