It’s All About The Straws

I’ve discovered the mark of great restaurant. It’s all about the straws.

A good restaurant will refill my diet coke on a regular basis until I say “no, thanks” or my hands begin to shake from the caffeine overdose. A GREAT restaurant will refill my diet coke on a regular basis AND stop bringing me straws with every glass.

To me, straws have a time and place where they are useful and appropriate. If my soda comes in a cup with a lid, I’ll use a straw. It’s clearly designed for travel. If it’s served in a glass, however, I’ll take the straw out and drink straight from the glass just like I would at home.

Great restaurants (represented by great waiters) notice right off the bat that I’ve taken the straw out of my glass. When they bring me another drink, my glass arrives ready to meet my lips in Nutrisweet bliss – with no straw to remove.

If straws begin to accumulate on the table in front of me, I’ll sometimes I’ll amuse myself by playing with them. With two straws, you’ve got a decent pair of airband drumsticks. With three or more, you can start to construct a pretty nice sculpture. On one particularly thirsty day I created a scale model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water using nothing but my straws and a few packets of Splenda.

But most of the time they just clutter up the table.

This is a small thing, I know. But aren’t the small things what elevate you from good to great? What this really illustrates is how well you pay attention to your customers.

Some practical applications:

Do your customers ask you for the same thing repeatedly? Have you ever thought about automating your ordering or delivery system so they wouldn’t have to ask?

Have you ever noticed that your customers end up with unused products or portions of products? Is there any way you can help them recover those products, or even dispose of them in some way? Or help them purchase the correct amount next time?

If you sell your time, do your customers use it all? If not, is there another service you can perform for them so they get full value for their time? What about if they consistently use more time than they schedule? Is there a way to help them schedule the right amount?

Internally, have you ever assisted a teammate with a project or a task at the last minute or as way to simply be extra helpful? Could you take over that task on a regular basis?

A nice example of paying attention to the “straws” was our recent order of water cooler bottles from Ice Mountain. I ordered 20 bottles instead of our usual 10. We had decided that we’d like to have extra on hand instead of always running very low as we approached our delivery dates. The customer service agent on the phone noticed the difference in our typical order. She let me know that we normally only order 10 bottles. I assured her that we wanted 20. She said ok, but she just wanted to make sure since she noticed it was different. She was paying attention!

Spend the next week paying a little closer attention to your customers and figuring out what straws might be left on their table. Sometimes you might have to redesign a system to address the issue. But often you’ll find that it only takes a slight shift in your behavior to make a noticeable difference.


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