Have you ever asked for a side of Apple Chips at Panera Bread? These are the responses I usually get:
“Sure” (He/She then types in a special instruction on the screen and I get apple chips)
“Sure” (He/She can’t find the button on the register for ‘Apple Chips’ so he/she calls the manager who then responds:)
“I”m sorry but we can’t do that.” (after which I beg and plead to no avail, except for one time when a manager responded:)
“Since you’re getting a Fuji Apple salad, and that has apple chips on it, I can add another side of apple chips.”
When turned down once, I even offered to pay extra for apple chips. The response?
“Sorry, there’s no way for me to process that payment.”
Understand, it’s not like I’m asking for something that’s not on the menu. It’s used as a garnish on the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and Oatmeal. But, somewhere there is an (un?)official edict that “Thou shalt not give apple chips unless with a salad or Oatmeal.”
I’m sure that it’s probably a cost issue. The apple chips are more expensive than regular chips, and thus don’t provide the profit margins that Panera would like, especially when they’re being given away as a side.
That still doesn’t explain the stupidity of not supplying them to a customer who offers to buy them!
This isn’t only Panera though. Cable and Satellite companies do something similar but dress it up differently.
Become a Subscriber now and receive 12 months of service for $24.99* a month!
What’s especially painful about this offer is that people who have been subscribers for 5 years don’t get the offer. They still have to pay $54.99 a month. The loyal customer gets shafted, the newcomer gets rewarded.
How is this like the Panera situation?
In both cases, a company has something but will only share it on their terms, not on the customers. Panera has apple chips, Cable/Satellite/Cell companies have price breaks that they’re not willing to give to loyal, long-standing customers.
Don’t get me wrong. Companies have every right to portion out their profits/losses how they want. But, it comes down to these simple questions:
Are your customers important to you?
Do you want them to have an amazing experience of your services and/or food?
Do you believe growth is directly related to how you treat your customers?
Steven S. Little, author of the wonderful “The MilkShake Moment: Overcoming Stupid Systems, Pointless Policies and Muddled Management to Realize Real Growth,” makes a point for the importance of valuing the customer, the person, over policy and profits. Profits will follow when the customer is placed first.
It’s not complicated.
It’s simply about having the guts to care about people, to be willing to act in simple, but profound ways that scream, “You are important to me!” without fear of being called on the carpet by Corporate. It’s about making someone a milkshake even when it’s not officially on the menu; or in my case, giving me a cup of Apple Chips.