02. Jul. 2014

There is a fork in my soup

by Peet Wiid

Lunchtime fail is a reminder that an absence of KAIZEN™ culture translates to disappointment for the customer.

A steaming bowl of hearty soup is just what I needed on a cold, windy, wet day in the heart of the New Zealand winter. I had my eye on a café close to our office for quite some time and thought this was a perfect opportunity to satisfy my appetite and to try out something new; be daring and do something different…

Once I have placed my order at an unfriendly staff member, I started scouring for a clean table in a rather empty café – a bit annoying when you struggle to find a clean place to put your elbows on (OK, I know, I’m not supposed to place elbows on a table – please do not provide a reading list of all your books on etiquette; my mom and wife already did…) Nonetheless, I discovered the table with the least amount of crumbs on it. No staff member in sight to help me out with some cleaning.

After waiting for quite some time (luckily we have smart phones nowadays to keep us occupied), a sloppy waiter brought me my bowl of liquidised vegies (that’s soup). I carefully opened the damp serviette he left behind with my eating utensils in it (don’t you just dislike it when that serviette is wet to keep it all together? You never know what the source of dampness is…). I am digressing - it was then that I made the discovery: that day I had to eat my hearty soup with a fork! (To be fair I must mention that they provided a knife as well…)

 

No waiter in sight to help me out with this problem either and nowhere could I see a container with soup spoons in it. Reluctantly I walked to the counter to face the unfriendly order taker, again. Involuntarily my thoughts starting drifting back to the friendly staff at the café I visit regularly. My comforting journey was abruptly interrupted when the madam pushed the cold spoon into my closed hand.

Back at my crumbed-invested table, I reached for the wooden pepper pot – at least some class I thought. The churning and churning did not produce a single broken peppercorn - it was empty. Once again I had to walk to another table to find a pepper pot – no staff member in sight to help me out here, once again.

Eventually when lunch was only a fading memory I pushed my chair underneath the café table (see, I know about etiquette). My first step back to the office was a slippery one – the staff member who did not clean the tables also did not pick up the (now also liquidised) tomatoes on the floor. I nearly slipped and broke a leg – well, almost!

The soup of the day itself was good (although the taste in my mouth wasn’t…). Here is my reflection on the “fork-in-the-soup” experience and why creating a KAIZEN™ culture is so important in any organisation (perhaps you can add to this reflection):

  • How are you treating the people you deal with, your customers? Do they get value from your actions? Are your lack of actions frustrating them? Do your customer feel valued? I will not return to this café as I did not get value and maybe others had the same experience. Their price was on par with the other cafés but the service was poor as there wasn’t a connection with the customer. Are your great products being let down by poor service delivery?
  • Do you have active standards in your business that will help improve the customer experience? Why do you have standards in the first place, yes, why? I bet this café had some checklists to comply with legislation but they were not followed in this instance or perhaps not monitored by the owners. Perhaps standards are not lived and breathed in this business because they cannot see the connection between creating value and maintaining (and improving) standards. Make sure your standards are preventing these costly non-value added activities.
  • An engaged staff member would have made a connection with me, the customer, to ensure I get value and that my needs are met. It is all about respect for others. An organisation will always struggle to create value if they cannot connect with their customers on a mental, emotional and social level. How can you best serve the needs of your clients, patients, or customers?

We are all customers but we are also all suppliers of value (and non-value) to others. Let’s make the effort and the sacrifice to create better value for our customers before we find ourselves on that slippery slope...

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