Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"In Search of Excellence"

In an age when mediocre is "good enough",  I'm always impressed when a worker or a business goes "above and beyond" to achieve an excellent performance.  Despite the fact that every business school teaches that customer service is the key to achieving business success, so few learn that valuable lesson.

So, it is so refreshing when I encounter a moment of excellence in my dealings with the business world.

In an earlier blog I wrote of the outstanding customer service extended by my local Fry's Food Store.  Their product offerings are generous and they offer the food shopper true bargains and do so with some of the finest customer service you will see.

A few weeks ago I requested bids on painting my house.  I received several bids from fairly shady looking folks.  Finally, I received a bid from a well-established, family owned  painting company that was half the costs of the other bids.  The contract was simple, short and clearly defined.  After checking them out and finding they have outstanding records with the state board of contractors, and the Better Business Bureau, I contracted with them.  The paint was the highest quality paint and the job was done quickly, neatly and with great care for my property.  J. Ford and Sons will always have my future business.

I have bought all of my tires from Discount Tire for over 20 years.  When I shop at Discount Tire I know that I am getting a fair price and quick, efficient service and that they will stand behind their product.

Some franchise businesses demonstrate excellence only "by location".  When I first moved into my home in Phoenix I needed to buy many things to get my house up to par.  My first stop was the nearest Home Depot to my home.  I found I had to chase clerks down to get help, and rarely received any helpful advice.  Waiting lines were long while employees were chatting with each other.  I then chose to drive an additional ten miles to the HD in Surprise for better service.

I guess what frustrates me most is the "fast food business model".  Large chains like McDonald's or Burger King or KFC  and all other fast food chains, except In N Out Burger,  spend tens of millions of dollars to research the quality of their menu items, and many of these items are good!  However, those same fast food
chains will hire, at minimum wage,  a hormonally-challenged, often unmotivated teenager to prepare and serve your food!   This is not a knock on all teens; many are friendly and polite and hardworking; it's just that, after spending millions to develop a competitive menu, Fast Food chains hire the cheapest worker they can find and offer little in the way of incentives for the worker to promote the product!   The results are sloppy, ill-prepared food that was "modelled" by franchise headquarters to be tasty!  I have also found there is an inverse ratio of quality, based on a particular franchise's "lack of competition" in a specific location.  A McDonald's across from a Burger King will try a little harder to please while one without a nearby competitor will be horrible.  (Witness how bad those same franchises are when located off of a busy freeway!; they know they are going to get freeway business so there is little need to prepare tasty food in a quick and efficient manner.

My local KFC is a joint KFC-Taco Bell franchise; it is the only one in the area.  Expect long lines at the drive-thru, poorly prepared food and half the time they are out of what you ordered!  We also have a A&W-Long John Silver Franchise, alone in this area, and their food is absolutely inedible! 

Note:  A big improvement on the fast food business model would be to 1) ban than damn microwave oven and 2) pay your employees fairly (as is done at In N Out Burger), contribute to a teen scholarship fund, train them well and expect excellence!

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