If you've ever been in marketing, you know it's in your blood, and it never leaves. It's also innate to most successful business owners and managers; that constant monitoring of what's going on, with eyes, ears, nose and throat of consumer. I'm reminded of Conrad Hilton's wife who said she refused to travel with him. The founder of Hilton chain, he couldn't enter a hotel without taking mental notes and giving a running commentary.
Having spent a number of years in marketing in my earlier career years, I'm same way. I never walk into a store, hotel, or restaurant without moving into my "observing ego position" and noting my reactions as a consumer. In other words, I notice things.
Now, bad management is a no-brainer -- waiting 30 minutes for an appetizer, or being insulted or ignored by a sales clerk. But it's often smaller, more subtle, mistakes that will cumulatively sink a business. When doing marketing for a living, I never took on an account without visiting place and looking it over, preferably unannounced and incognito. It reveals a wealth of information you can't get from spreadsheets, intellectualized marketing plans, or conversations with "suits" located in a headquarters' office thousands of miles from scene of crime, as it were. It's crucial to be able to put on a "consumer" hat and find out what it feels like to walk into your organization or place of business and see how you're treated. Note: This is NOT same as announcing that CEO is coming for an inspection or a visit.
Many businesses are having problems these days with staffing and I saw a unique solution other day. Establishments that run close to 24/7, and experience "peaks" and "lulls" face a particular challenge. Some have switched to offering 4- and 6-hour shifts to employees, but this had a new spin on it.
AN INTERESTING SOLUTION
I happened into my favorite cafeteria other day after not having been there in a month or two, and it was like walking into a completely new place. I enjoy eating at this cafeteria now-and-then, for all reasons people like a good cafeteria. I try and avoid peak times there, but I've hit them often enough to see what a challenge they have when people are lined up winding around to door.
I usually go at an off-time, when there may be only 2 or 3 of us in line, and here's what happens. The 2 (or 3) of us grab our trays and then stand there. There's someone down by vegetables, but obviously salad isn't their thing. Eventually someone comes from back (the kitchen) or side (takeout orders) and gives us a salad. They disappear back to where they came from, and we move down to meat, where there is again, no one. The vegetable person calls someone from back. And so it goes.
When we get to register at end, there's no one there. This person may be out wiping tables, or in kitchen filling those little plastic containers with horseradish. Later, when it's time to pay, it's same thing. The person who should be at that register is not.
Therefore, paradoxically, it can take longer for me to complete meal process at a lull time than at a peak time.
Last week I walked in at a lull time and couldn't believe what I saw. I loved it! Now - consider that as a consumer statement. The change was palpable and grabbed my attention and I knew, intuitively, it was a good one. Wouldn't you like that to happen in your place of business?
There were 5 fresh young faces behind counter and they were smiling. I would say these teenagers serving food were at minimum legal age of hire. Those of us in line had smiles on our faces as "kids" dished up food, asked impossible questions, passed things wrong way, and didn't seem overly concerned. My feeling, as a consumer who sometimes will complain to a manager, was "Now who am I going to yell at? Not these kids. How could you fuss? They don't know any better. And besides, they're pleasant"