Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's that Customer Thing...Again

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon
I had a great trip recently. First, there was the fourth meeting of our Baldrige Executive Fellows. I am still amazed by the great group of people in this first cohort and by the level of shared learning. This time we were graciously hosted by Cargill, with two business units that have received the Baldrige Award, Kitchen Solutions (formerly Sunny Fresh Foods) and Corn Milling. From the Fellows' meeting I went to Dallas for the Texas Award for Performance Excellence. It was a time to see old friends and celebrate state role models. As always, their conference provided many learning opportunities for attendees.
Pastrami and cheeseIt all was great... until those customer moments at the airport! Two this time. I returned my rental car (well-known national company) and the bill was about 15% higher than the rental confirmation receipt. I questioned the agent at the return lane and he said I had to go to the desk, he only prints receipts. Obviously there was a line at the desk, but fortunately I was early enough to wait. When it was my turn, the agent explained the difference was that I had a car one class higher than the rental confirmation (not a luxury car by any means). I asked how I would know that since I went to the aisle I was told to go to and pick any car. Quiet on the other side of the counter...then, "I'll change it this time but won't in the future." My response, "And will you also learn how to sort cars before then?" Wouldn't life be a lot better if they had read the Customer Focus category of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence? Then they might have apologized for putting the car in the wrong aisle (BTW there were many of them in that aisle), corrected the bill and given it to me with a smile. The end result in terms of the bill to me is the same. The difference is a customer loyalty victory vs. an unhappy customer.
Next, I went to the food court in the departure area and ordered a pastrami sandwich from a large national vendor. The description read "pastrami on rye with mustard." Perfect (or poifect, as we used to say in New York). When they were wrapping the sandwich, I noticed it came with melted cheese. I said i just want the pastrami, no cheese. The preparer said, "Then why didn't you say so when your ordered it?" I said, "Because the description just says pastrami on rye with mustard, how should I know it comes with melted cheese?" She said, "Remember that for next time." She begrudgingly remade the sandwich. End result, same as with the car rental!
Is the customer concept gone in America or just in airports? And, incidentally, if you want to be a well-served customer, please check out the opportunity to join the second cohort of Baldrige Executive Fellows.

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