One is of a roll of tape I had to pay $5.95 for at the post office because the clerk would not let me use 1 6” piece of their tape so I could send my sister her birthday present.
The other is a photo of the breakfasts I bought for two of my kids because the restaurant “does not do carry out.”
Sometimes, folks, there are stupid things businesses do that actually alienate clients, not attract them.
First the Post Office. Now, we can hardly call them a business, as a business makes money, holds people accountable, leads by example, and pays taxes. The Post Office doesn’t do any of those. They don’t make money; they’ve lost billions annually for years. They rarely hold their people to standards one should. They want you to jump through a bunch of hoops at their place but don’t you dare ask them to follow what you want; they say “no” too much. And even though all of us pay taxes, they don’t; they’re tax exempt. Sure, there are great postal workers and I have met a lot of nice ones but I’ve met a lot of them that baffle me.
I go to mail a package to my sister, I take it to the counter and ask Ben if he has one small piece of tape I could have. He tells me to go buy some over at the counter across from him, even though he has a giant tape dispenser in front of him. So, I go buy tape that Wal*Mart sells for .99, for $5.95 and tape up my box. I take it to Sylvia this time and she says if I’m mailing something priority, I can use their tape. Sheesh, what is it? How can two people who have worked next to each other not know what the deal is? Sure, this is a somewhat silly topic to talk about but the hoops the Post Office makes you jump through only makes people want to use UPS and FedEx. They just don’t “get it” and most likely never will. Don’t do this in your business. On many matters, if you do the opposite of what the Post Office does, you’ll be safe.
Bottom Line? Never take a client for granted; be smart; be considerate; don’t give them any reasons to try anyone else. If the Post Office had played their cards right for the last 50 years, FedEx Kinkos, the UPS Store, and the countless other mail stores would never have taken so much business away from them and threatened their future. A bit radical on my part? Possibly, but there’s a lesson here.
Now, the picture of breakfast. I got up early on Sunday and went to breakfast by myself. Lisa had Lily out of town for soccer so it was just me and two of the kids; Emily is away at college. I decide to bring them home breakfast; the restaurant I like to go to for breakfast has excellent food and service. So, I finish my breakfast and ask for a “to go” order. The server tells me they don’t do “to go” orders but she can bring the food over on plates and I can put them in Styrofoam containers and take them home if I want. Huh? They probably don’t do carry out because of the high quality standards they have and know that when people order “to go” orders and get them home, they aren’t good and they don’t want to hurt their reputation. The problem is, when you make polices like that in your business, you have to explain the whole deal to your team. They didn’t; the server wants to make a tip and I, the client, wanted to bring food home to my kids, so we end up putting the client through the stupid and silly act of packing food up at the table.
Lots to learn from these two photos and stories. Nobody said running a business was easy. However, what is easy is that we think about what we’re doing.
It is easy to pay attention to what’s going on. And it’s easy to communicate better to our team the who, what, and why we do what we do at our business. Part of that was left out and this is what happens. As far the Post Office, they do a lot of things well. And they do a lot of things very poorly, things that make clients go other places to have things shipped. They try to make you think they are a business but they operate like a slumbering, huge place that doesn’t communicate well and is far too rigid to play in a business that needs flexibility. For the breakfast place I spoke of, tell your people why you do things; don’t just share policies that don’t have explanation, because when you do, your team, if they are smart, will “freelance” to make money or make a client happy and you can’t blame them for that!
Talk to your team about why you are doing what you are doing, get a dialog going and understand that engagement comes from everyone understanding what’s going on.