Few things are as important in business as caring. Caring about your work, caring about your product or service, caring about people – especially your customers. People know you care when they see it.
This week I stopped for a quick bite at a mom and pop fried chicken shack while driving from Austin to Houston (Gold’n Crisp, 922 E. Travis, La Grange, TX). I was starving and in a big hurry but did not really want to eat at a chain, a place I could find just as easily in Austin. I saw the little roadside counter-only establishment and noted the number of pickup trucks – locals – pulling up. I figured this was as good a bet as any. I made myself at home at an outside picnic table as 5 kittens circled my legs, hoping for some spare bird. The fried chicken was great but the cole slaw – a food I am a self-proclaimed expert in – was outstanding. On my way back to the car I tapped on the now-closed window and told them how good the slaw was. The young man – remember this is a guy in little La Grange, Texas, working the closing shift in a three-person chicken shack – said “Thanks, we make it ourselves!”
I figured he was a member of the family that owned the place.
The next day, I am in a much bigger, high volume Houston eatery, Kelley’s Country Cooking, and I was blown away by the Chicken Noodle soup – the best I have ever had. I told the young Latina waitress. Her face lit up like sunshine, “Yes, it’s great.”
I figured she had no relation to the family that owned the place.
A few weeks earlier I drove through a KFC drive-through in my hometown, Anderson, Indiana, and they somehow missed the large Coke I had ordered. When I asked, “Where’s the Coke?” the young man at the window said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I will get you a free Coke.” So now I feel badly, and tried to get him to take money for it, but he would not.
He was not an exec with KFC or an owner of the franchise.
Nothing is as powerful as caring, attentive people. This is true from the CEO’s office to the drive-through window.
Caring can take place in any type of organization, from the state police to the chicken shack.
Caring comes from the culture, it comes from the top, it comes from expectations and habit.
On the other side of the coin, I was recently in a Borders store in Chicago; the person behind me in the cash register line had a shrink-wrapped book in their hand and asked the cashier, “Can I see the inside of this book?”
The cashier hesitated, “Well, I don’t know … I don’t think we are supposed to unwrap … let me check.”
Every bookstore has shrink-wrapped books. Every good bookseller knows to get that thing off the book at the first opportunity. This “mistake” at Borders was certainly not the cashier’s fault. It was the fault of the CEO.
Do the people in your company care? Do they know how to care? Do they pay attention and focus on the customer or task at hand? Do you care?