Friday, January 6, 2012

Five-Minute Rule, Part 1

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now, but an article I read today regarding Best Buy's uncertain future (at least in that author's view) has me feeling motivated.

I've written several times now about how good customer service is a strong component of networking when you run a business. After all, your customers can be one of your greatest sources of referrals.

This is the story of two businesses on a cold February morning.

The first business is local food purveyor, internationally known Zingerman's. Now I've written about the big Z in the past, but I am always impressed by their above-the-call customer service. On this day it wasn't anything particularly remarkable (for them), except in comparison to the experience immediately afterward at Best Buy.

In this case, I had stopped at their Bakehouse to pick up some of my wife's favorite pastries (Cosmic Cakes). As I was paying, I mentioned to the cashier that I was next going over to the Creamery to pick up some of my favorite cheese.

"Oh, sir, I'm sorry, but they won't open for fifteen minutes."
"Drat. Well, guess I'll have to skip my cheese this time." I had some other errands I needed to run and couldn't wait.
"Just a minute, sir. Let me call over and have them let you in."

She made the call and by the time I'd walked down, the Creamery clerk was waiting at the door to let me in. He apologized for not having any samples out for me to taste, but would be happy to let me try anything I wanted. All I had to do was ask. In the meantime, he hoped it would be OK if he continued to set up. I assured him that I was fine, bought my cheese, and left to take care of my errands.

I love Zingerman's.

I may have taken less than five minutes out of his morning preparations. Still, he could have fallen back on the "We're not open yet" rule and completed his pre-opening tasks without interruption. Zingerman's, however, has made it corporate culture that they will bend over backwards to accommodate their guests -- which is probably why they are internationally known.

What I particularly loved was the fact that this was no big thing for them. The Bakehouse cashier didn't even hesitate to make the call for me and the Creamery clerk greeted me as if he'd been open all morning. No muss. No fuss.

Whether it's customer service or doing some small thing for someone in our networks, sometimes it's the "five minute" activities that have the greatest impact. Answering a quick question in our areas of expertise, making a quick call to wish a happy birthday, or passing along an article of interest -- none of them take time, but all of them can do amazing things to strengthen our connections.

What sorts of things could you do if you took even only five minutes a day?

Next time I'll tell you about what happened five minutes later at Best Buy.

4 comments:

  1. They are amazing...everyone is always in a good mood and seems genuinely happy to be there. I think that reflects well upon management. Other than maybe the ghost of Walter Reuther, most people aren't as pro-labor/pro-union as me, so it's kind of nice to see a place where workers are actually treated well and paid well!!!

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    1. Good point, Patti. I may have to write a post about the importance of your employees in your network.

      Thanks for reading!

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  2. I agree whole heartedly with your blog. My husband traveled for years and ate most of his meals in restaurants. As he has pointed out all restaurants serve food that is usually sourced from the same supplier. What makes a difference is the level of service provided by the staff. By being greeted by a friendly and pleasant person to delivery of the food cooked to order all helps to create the loyal customer who spreads the good news about the wonderful experience he had at your establishment. You can't buy that kind of advertising.

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    1. Which also ties back into the whole networking concept of service without expectation of immediate results. Just as the server in the restaurant doesn't know which patron will spread the good word, so, too, in networking, we don't know which of our connections will be the one who refers us to our next big opportunity.

      We just need to be a good connection to all those in our network. The rest plays out the way it's supposed to.

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