If You’re Going to Surprise Your Customers, Don’t Do It Like This

Tonight I went to one of my favorite places to eat—a hole in the wall that serves inexpensive but tasty Tex-Mex. I ordered the Beef Fajita Salad like I always do. Always. I like to think it’s because I’m sure of myself and know what I like, but maybe it’s because I don’t like surprises, and I’m afraid of change.

Why am I telling you this? Because the salad I ordered, the salad I always order, was different tonight, and not in a good way. Surprise!

where's the beef

As I looked down at the sad little pile of lettuce, I was thinking: Did they hire someone and not train him? Did they run out of ingredients? Did they forget to care? I actually dug to the bottom of the bowl, thinking maybe my salad had been tossed, and the “good” ingredients had migrated down beneath the lettuce leaves. No such luck.

Michael E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, shares a story about his barber and the importance of systems to deliver consistent, repeatable positive customer experiences. Gerber went to the barber the first time and had a wonderful experience. He told friends, he went back. The second time things were still good, but not quite as good. What might have been a good experience (without any reference to the past experience) was a little disappointing by comparison. He didn’t tell any of his friends. The next time, things were a little different again, a little worse, and the fourth time was Gerber’s last. His experience kept changing, kept disappointing, and eventually he found another barber.

What can we learn from this? A few things:

Be careful how you craft and create your customer experience. If you don’t have a system to deliver the same positive experience consistently, you will disappoint your customers. The restaurant has a recipe for Beef Fajita Salad, but they don’t have a system for making and delivering my dinner consistently.

Even if you’ve created a system, you need to establish a minimum standard of service experience below which your employees will not go. That standard should include honesty. It would have been better for the waiter or cook to tell me they were out of the ingredients, rather than try to sneak one by me.

Be careful who gets to control your customer experience. I can pretty much guarantee the owner of that Mexican restaurant wouldn’t have tried to sneak anything by me. I’m a good customer, a loyal customer. I’ve spent a lot of money there, and I’ve introduced a lot of my friends to that place. But tonight my relationship with that restaurant was in the hands of someone who didn’t care that much. As a business owner, that’s scary.

In The E-Myth Revisited, Gerber recommends business owners eliminate discretion or choice at the operating level of the business. When I first read that it seemed harsh to me—I used to love to give people lots of discretion about how they do their jobs. I like to think it’s because I trust people, which I do. I also think it’s because I was lazy and didn’t want to create a system or hold people accountable, which is unfortunate.

That turns out badly more often than I care to admit. The truth is that if you want to build a profitable, sustainable business you need to deliver consistently positive experiences to your customers. If you don’t have a system for doing that, you don’t have much of a business.

If you’d like some help figuring out how to create the systems you need to deliver consistently great experiences for your customers, call me. I can help. My mobile is 214-850-7911.

Also, if you want to help me put my kids through college, you can click on my affiliate link and buy The E-Myth Revisited. If you don’t want to, that’s ok, but go down to your local library or borrow the book from your Uncle Frank. It’s one of the best books for small business owners I’ve ever read. And I’ve read almost all of them.

Thinking About Starting a Business? Starting Up or Starting New

Questions about Starting a New Business

Image courtesy of Master / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Starting a business is exhilarating and daunting at the same time. So much to think about and so much to do! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement until the excitement feels like overwhelm. When that happens (and it will), we go searching for answers.

When I started my first business (with a guy who knew even less about business than I did), I would have given anything for a checklist, a hint, a mentor or a clue. I didn’t have any of that, but that was 14 years ago. Today, thanks to the internet, there are way too many checklists, hints, and clues. It’s downright paralyzing.

On the other hand, there are a lack of good mentors for startup owners, which is why I want to be that person for other brave entrepreneurial souls. Instead of thrashing all over the internet searching for magical websites that have (almost) all of the answers, I am able to guide my clients to the straightforward resources and processes that work without the needless distractions.

In order to find those resources and processes, I’ve spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars, read thousands of articles and more than a thousand business books. I’ve also started and run several companies and learned the priceless lessons of those experiences (which I think of sometimes as battles, sometimes as games). I am going to blog through some of the works that have had the biggest impact on me and my businesses and share insights I’ve learned along the way.

For the next little bit, I will be blogging through some of my favorite resources. There will be lots of opportunities to dig into the nitty gritty, but today I would like to mention just a few.

Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. No one I have ever met or read gets sales and marketing, especially for service professionals, as well as Michael does. When I first read his Book Yourself Solid, I was stunned at how simple he made everything. As simple as it could be but not simpler, as the expression goes. It impressed me so much, I read his other books. Then I started to participate in his group calls. Then I signed up to begin the process of becoming a certified Book Yourself Solid coach. The information was/is great, and Michael and his colleagues turned out to be even more warm and helpful in person than I could have imagined. I am reembarking on that training now, after a long hiatus, and I am looking forward to learning and sharing what I learn. In addition to reading my blog, though, I encourage you to pick up Michael’s Book Yourself Solid Illustrated. 

Steve Blank’s The Startup Owner’s Manual. As much as Michael understands the ins and outs of sales and marketing, Steve understands the process of starting a company. As long as I have been reading business books, blogs, journals, magazines, etc., the “experts” have been treating startups like they were small versions of big companies. They aren’t. Not even close. And if you don’t know that, you are in for a dreadful surprise as you try to adapt established-company strategies and tactics to your startup. This, more than anything else I have seen, gets new entrepreneurs in trouble. I will be exploring the process for starting a new business through this blog, but I encourage you to consider purchasing Steve’s The Startup Owner’s Manual.

Michael E. Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. It was the first great business book I read, and it changed the way I thought about my business. By now many of the principles in Gerber’s classic are well-known—”Work on your business, not in your business” is a phrase all entrepreneurs throw around these days. But do we do it? And how do we do it? As I blog through the E-Myth system, we’ll be exploring Gerber’s specific advice for how we can go from “technicians suffering from an Entrepreneurial Seizure” to true entrepreneurs.

Those are three business-changing and therefore life-changing books, a good place to start.

If you have a question about starting a new business and don’t want to wait until I am done blogging through all of these books to see if I answer it, feel free to send me an email. I know how scary it can be not to have anyone to ask when you have a question, and I am happy to help if I can.

Also, I should mention that pretty much all of the links on my blog will be affiliate links, so I can make some fat stacks while blogging. If that bothers you, feel free to not click on the link. And if you buy something I recommend and hate it, let me know. I might want to buy whatever it is you bought from you. I am only going to recommend things that I myself have bought/used/loved while starting a business or helping someone else start theirs.

See you tomorrow.