Years ago, I frequented a well-known quick-service restaurant for their Special Broiler Meal, a fast-food lunch of broiled chicken sandwich and french fries.
But instead of taking the large cola with the package, I always asked for a small glass of orange juice instead. Predictably, the counter staff would freeze up with uncertainty and refer my request to the floor manager.
One young manager was particularly memorable. ‘I’m sorry, sir, ’ he told me. ‘You can’t have orange juice with the Special Broiler Meal. ’
‘Sure I can, ’ I replied, ‘I do it all the time at the other outlets in your group. There is a 65 cent price difference and I am happy to pay it. ’
‘That’s not the problem, ’ he said with a touch of annoyance. ‘There’s no key on my computer to make the substitution, so I can’t let you do it. ’
‘Hey, sometimes you have to break the rules, ’ I said, reminding him of his brand’s multi-million dollar advertising campaign. ‘I’ll take the Super Broiler Meal, with orange juice, please. ’
He realized I was not going to take ‘No’ for an answer and he could not go against a well-informed customer and his chain’s well-known advertising promise.
‘I’ll do it for you just this once, as an exception, ’ he said.
‘Oh c’mon, you can do it for me anytime, ’ I replied.
‘No, ’ he said again, looking me straight in the eye. ‘I will do it for you this once, but I won’t do it again. ’
‘Wait a minute, ’ I asked gamely. ‘You are about to make me a happy customer. Do you really mean you wouldn’t make me a happy customer again?’
‘I will do it for you this once, ’ he repeated flatly. When I received my meal, with orange juice, I gave the manager a genuine smile and said, ‘See you again next time. ’
He replied, just below his breath but loud enough for me to hear, ‘I don’t want to see you again. ’
Somewhere within this company, computer programmers design point-of-purchase terminals to carefully limit the choices and options of customers around the world.
The accountants are happy. Daily sales reports are clean and accurate. But at the sales counter, face-to-face between customers and staff, both parties experience frustration.
The advertising slogan says, ‘Sometimes you’ve just got to break the rules. ’ But the restaurant manager would not.
I wrote an article about this encounter in my local newspaper. The following week, a regional manager from the restaurant chain called and invited me to lunch.
The next month I returned to the same outlet seeking a Super Broiler Meal, with orange juice. The counter staff smiled brightly and keyed in my order.
‘How did you do that?’, I asked in a state of pleased amazement. ‘Now it’s easy, ’ she replied. ‘Last week they put a new key on the computer to allow simple menu changes. ’
Congratulations to this well-known restaurant chain. You are listening!
Key Learning Point
If you are going to bend the rules for your customers, be ready to do it each and every time they ask. Then make life easier for them, and for you - change the procedure, or change the rules.
Some rules are essential and must be maintained. Others should be refined or abandoned. Try suspending a different rule each week. Notice what new actions can be taken, new customer value created. Then keep the rules you really need and get rid of those you don't.
Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed educator and motivator for partnerships and quality customer service. He is author of the bestselling “UP Your Service!" and founder of “UP Your Service College". Visit http://www.UpYourService.com for more such Customer Service articles, subscribe to his Newsletter, or to buy his bestselling Books, Videos, Audio CDs on Customer Service from his secure Online Store . You can also watch Ron live or listen to him at http://www.RonKaufman.com .