We have been enjoy­ing our first few weeks in our new office in Belle­vue and one of the perks of mov­ing to the new area is we have a fresh selec­tion of places to sat­is­fy our hunger pangs when lunch time rolls around.  This past week a few of us walked to a local sand­wich shop with a lim­it­ed but deli­cious menu to grab a quick lunch.  We arrived a few min­utes before noon and got a table before the lunch time rush.

We placed our orders for a sand­wich and ice tea and it did not take long for the wait­ress to come back and inform us they had not fin­ished mak­ing their ice tea yet so it would be a while before our drinks arrived.  A few min­utes after that she returned to our table to inform us that the type of bread that we had ordered had not fin­ished bak­ing yet so it would delay our food at least 10 addi­tion­al min­utes if we want­ed to stay with that option.

As con­sumers it seemed incred­u­lous that a restau­rant that spe­cial­ized in sand­wich­es that come on only 2 types of bread and has a lim­it­ed drink menu would not have an ample sup­ply of ice tea and bread pre­pared well in advance of the hour of the day when they do the major­i­ty of their busi­ness.  How­ev­er, as busi­ness con­sul­tants we see many times where a busi­ness is so focused on oth­er things they neglect the basics of what they do.

This prob­lem tends to occur when a busi­ness goes to long with­out tak­ing a look at them­selves through the eyes of their cus­tomers.  As you can imag­ine the process of relo­cat­ing to a new office that we remod­eled has required a sig­nif­i­cant amount of effort by some of the mem­bers of our staff.  This required us to deal with ven­dors that we don’t deal with on an ongo­ing basis and it was amaz­ing how dif­fi­cult some of them made it to do busi­ness with them.

If your busi­ness sells direct­ly to con­sumers when is the last time you hired mys­tery shop­pers to fre­quent your shop and give you hon­est feed­back?  Do you have a method for fol­low­ing up with your key cus­tomers and at least a ran­dom selec­tion of non-key cus­tomers to solic­it hon­est feed­back about how their expe­ri­ence was with your com­pa­ny?

Rather than report a bad expe­ri­ence most cus­tomers will just go away and not return rather than report that to you.  This is why it is impor­tant to have a sys­tem to not only proac­tive­ly seek hon­est feed­back from your cus­tomers but to also com­pile and eval­u­ate this infor­ma­tion on an ongo­ing basis.

There is a lot of focus today on busi­ness process improve­ment and when you improve your process­es that requires change.  It is impor­tant that you look at those changes and how they will affect your cus­tomers.  Some great ques­tions to ask your­self when look­ing at a new process are:

  1.  Will cus­tomers have to wait longer?
  2. Will cus­tomers have to spend any of their time or mon­ey as part of our approach to fix­ing prob­lems that we caused?
  3. Will cus­tomers feel con­fused or frus­trat­ed by the hoops we want them to jump through to access our prod­ucts or ser­vices?
  4. Will it be hard for cus­tomers to quick­ly get help from us when our process­es con­fuse, frus­trate or fail them?

We left the restau­rant that day with­out find­ing the own­er and let­ting her know of our expe­ri­ence but I think next week I will wan­der into their doors again and if they still aren’t cov­er­ing the basics I will take the time to let her know that her process­es need improve­ment.