A few days ago I was out in my area taking care of some business when I stopped by a local Taco Bell. I placed my order and while I was heading to the window a colleague of mine called and asked me to place an order for them as well. So once when I got to the window the cashier went through her checklist of things she is required to do – take payment, ask about sauces, check order… then I threw her a curveball.
I told her I would like to add additional food to my order. The cashier looked at me very confidently and stated, “Sorry you have to get back in line to place another order.” We both then looked behind my vehicle at the empty parking lot and empty drive-thru line and I asked rather confusedly “Really? I am the only person here in line and it is an inconvenience to have to drive around just to talk to you.”
The cashier explained that she is forbidden to add items at the window because Taco Bell requires all service times to be counted and she would be punished for breaking the rules. Fair enough. I understood that this young lady was just enforcing the standards that Taco Bell had in place and was not allowed to make decisions. I can even understand the dilemma of indecisive people during a lunch rush making numerous changes at the window that could throw an entire location into chaos.
However, I did not take the additional five minutes to drive around to talk to the cashier from the starting point. Taco Bell lost out on additional funds as my new order would have been for three times the amount of food. Their need to fulfill metrics so that service can be counted in staff meetings by some executives that are not 100% in tune with their actual service cost them further sales – I wondered how many people were turned away daily.
These very executives will consider my experience to have been a successful one because the service was fast and meet their time requirements. The fact that business was lost and I left with a very unsatisfied feeling about the company in general just does not compute into these analytics.
How many other customers had been turned away nationwide?
There are 5,800 restaurants in the US and it would be impossible to say how many times customers would like to add food at the window because this is not a metric the company is interested in counting. For argument purposes only I will use one customer per restaurant as the number that is not allowed to make orders at the window. This is not a large number considering hundreds or thousands of customers may visit locations depending on its popularity in each area. This number would equate to 2,117,000 customers that could be turned away annually.
The question I pose is at what point a company’s need to collect metrics begins to impede the business instead of being productive. As a martial artist, I understand that life and business cycles in a circle not a straight line so when you begin something with good intentions there is a point to which it will become a negative factor.
A policy that starts with good intentions, such as having all service timed, can at some point become negative, in my case it was the loss of business and added revenues. My advice for business owners is to have a well thought out metrics plan for collecting data for their business and allow customer service agents on the front line to be able to make decisions on whether a deviation from the policy is acceptable. The customer service agents can be empowered to represent the company through effective training programs and engaged leadership that provides feedback and upholds accountability.
There are two problems every business faces – Customer Acquisition & Customer Retention. Not matter what type of metrics you decide to collect you have to always keep the main purposes in mind and empower your employees to make decisions that will lead you to your desired result – profits.