What lies beneath the surface?

It’s Halloween.  Woo-hoo. For some people it’s a favorite; for me not so much.  But, to show support for the people who look forward to Halloween, I decided to pick a somewhat ominous title for this edition of our blog. So here it goes.

From books, to movies to famous quotes, what lies beneath the surface is more often than not riddled with danger. In a movie, it’s usually the scary part where we over our eyes and scream when the “what’ is revealed. Are you with me so far? That’s great because now I am going to talk about customer experience. Yep, that’s right – customer experience.

Follow my thoughts here for a minute. This week I attended the Cleveland Clinic CARES About Parking Symposium 2015; an event that brings together parking professionals for networking, sharing best practices and discussions on new trends and technologies. As attendees shared their stories, it reminded me that things aren’t always the way they seem at first glance. For example, using a parking garage for the most part is pretty mundane; you pull in, grab your ticket, and find a space and park.  It’s a pretty seamless process. Under the surface, it’s a totally different scenario.  Behind the scenes, an entire network of people are focused on making that parking experience the best it can be; researching, testing, eliminating challenges, adding new equipment, testing out new procedures, hiring the right personnel. It’s like a duck in a pond – smoothly floating along on the surface and paddling like crazy underneath.

Customers don’t see the “paddling like crazy underneath”. Their experience is based on what’s above the surface. In my parking example, they don’t know that three employees called off sick and left you shorthanded. They just know that they waited 15 minutes in the line to pay because only one lane was open. They don’t care that there’s a big convention in town, they only know that they can’t find a space in the lot and they are already late for work. Customer opinions are formed by their experiences. Create experiences that keep them coming back. Find out “what lies beneath” in your organization and make sure it works. If you don’t the results could be pretty scary.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Get by with a little help from friends…

I’m sure we all remember words like this from one of the Beatles’ top songs. And it is so true. Actually I experienced it first-hand over the last several days at the 2015 COSE Small Business Convention in Cleveland.

It was two days of sharing experiences, networking, learning from experts who were more than willing to share both their successes and their failures, making new connections, renewing former connections and just being immersed in the whole experience. The energy and the buzz were infectious.

You know what? People really DO want to help each other. Honest. And it’s a good thing because the reality is that none of us – no matter how good we think we are – can do it alone. Being able to benefit from the knowledge and life experiences of others is golden.  What’s even better is walking away from an experience like the COSE Small Business Convention with a renewed spirit and confidence about the direction you are headed; going from an “I think I can” to an “I know I can” mantra; and being excited about putting into practice all the great things you learned.

This African proverb – “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others” – says it best.  My experience over the last few days has already helped me get a lot farther down the road; all because of a little help from my new friends.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Walk a mile in my shoes

Read an article today in Business Insider on McDonald’s All Day Breakfast initiative.  The article wasn’t about the “end-user” perspective; it was feedback from franchise owners. They are the other customers; the ones who actually implement the program at the local store level.

Findings in a survey done by Normura analyst Mark Kalinowski reveal that for franchise owners, All Day Breakfast is a nightmare. Why? Owners say the new menu is slowing down service; causing havoc in kitchens; creating labor problems and adding costs for additional equipment. They added that customers are leaving because service has become too slow and quality has decreased. Add to that the fact that customers are purchasing lower cost breakfast items as opposed to regular menu items that bring in more money. It’s “disorganized and chaotic.” Did anyone walk a mile in their shoes?

Then it gets better. The president of McDonald’s actually sent a note to franchisees about the success of the All Day Breakfast program! Wow.

There are hundreds of stories similar to this in businesses across the country. What resonates with me is this – did anyone even ask the franchise owners how this program might work for them before it was implemented? Did anyone get their feedback? Ask them about challenges and possible solutions?  Walk through it step by step to see where the pitfalls might be? Did anyone walk a mile in the franchise owners’ shoes?

One of the reasons McDonald’s launched the All Day Breakfast program was that customers had long been begging for extended breakfast hours. Okay, filling a customer need isn’t a bad thing; but they bypassed their most important customer – the ones really responsible for the program’s success. In my book, that’s a big mistake – HUGE. What looks great on paper may be a disaster to implement. But how would you know that if you don’t test it out? How would you know if you don’t walk in everyone’s shoes that will be touched by the program? Seems like a simple thing to do but too often it’s one that gets overlooked.

Food for thought.

Posted by MJ Thomas

The times they are changing.

The fall season is officially here and I love it. Other than Christmas, it is my favorite time of the year; the sights, the sounds, the smells, football; it’s all good. And the food – caramel apples, pumpkin everything and spiced lattes – is amazing. It is a time of change.

Change – on some level – happens every day. Often the change is so slight that we don’t even notice it. Other times it can rock our world. When it does, how do you handle it? Do you embrace it, or do you resist it with everything you can muster?

Change can take us out of our comfort zone; make us uneasy and even fearful.  It can also help us grow and achieve things once thought not possible. It can open up new worlds and new opportunities. If we are not careful, it sneaks up, flies by and leaves us in the dust. It’s our adaptability to change that makes the difference between success and failure; profit or loss. The “we’ve always done it this way” line of thinking doesn’t work anymore; not if you want to grow anyway.

Change is a reality of life that’s not going away any time soon. Embrace it, make the best of it, ride the wave and see how far it takes you. You just might be surprised.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Celebrating National Manufacturing Day

Did you know that today is National Manufacturing Day? I admit I wasn’t familiar with it at first either. So I decided to find out a little more about it. It turns out that for the last four years the first Friday in October has been set aside to highlight the manufacturing industry and its contributions to our country. The event has grown each year to the point where this year almost 2,000 planned local events and open houses throughout the country will showcase modern manufacturing technology to the public. 

National Manufacturing Day provides the opportunity to foster a better understanding of the industry and inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

How important is manufacturing to our well-being? Just take a look at a few of the facts I picked out from the National Association of Manufacturers.
·         Manufacturers have contributed more than $2 trillion to the economy
·         Manufacturing supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the United States
·         Manufacturers in the United States drive more innovation than any other sector
·         Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth largest economy in the world

That’s pretty impressive by any standards. So, today let’s take time out to celebrate the manufacturing businesses and their employees who work tirelessly to produce the goods that contribute to our economic strength, standard of living and national security.

Posted by MJ Thomas