Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cost Control

Last night I went to a local restaurant to purchase dinner for my family. I like this place. The food is eclectic and well prepared. They had a special written on their chalk board. It sounded great, turkey meatloaf. I knew that their version would be perfect and I ordered it.

The waitress told me it came with mashed potatoes and wilted spinach. Well I am watching my carb intake and I asked if they could substitute vegetables for the mashed potatoes. She thought not, but would go in the back and ask the chef. The answer came back “NO”. I asked if I could have more spinach instead of the potatoes. She said “NO.” “Why not?” I asked. She replied “cost control, spinach costs more than potatoes.” Well, I knew that this was a small, probably struggling business and I could appreciate the need to be cost sensitive, so I offered. “No problem, I’ll pay extra for the spinach” (I’m thinking that I will get the award for most understanding and reasonable customer of the month)

But boy was I wrong! Not only did I not get the coveted most reasonable customer award, I got one more big “NO!” At this point I was frustrated at their unwillingness to meet my needs and I left without ordering anything.

So their cost control efforts created a profit control of much bigger proportions. Even though they had saved money on the vegetables that had lost my four dinner orders that evening, which didn’t seem to phase the waitperson or chef one bit.

Clearly this was not a cost control issue, this was a control issue. The chef had created a “perfect combo” and was not about to ruin his piece of art for a mere customer. He was devoted to his vision and not his customer’s needs. He forgot he only gets to create because of people like me, his customer.

Perhaps as you read this you are thinking, wow I would NEVER treat my customers that way. Maybe you wouldn’t. But if you have said “no” to your customer in the last month, you might have to rethink that idea.

Sometimes our customers are unreasonable. Sometimes they ask for outrageous things. But sometimes it is easier for us to say “no” then to find a creative solution that meets everyone needs.

The next time you are about to say “no” to your customer, stop for a moment, catch your breath and instead say “Let me see what I can do.” If nothing else the customer will feel that you are on their side and trying to help them. Then get creative and find a way to give your customer what they need.