Posts tagged ‘Au Bon Pain’

June 1, 2012

Problems: What Separates the Good Guys from the Bad?

I have some bad news for you. At some point, your organization is going to stumble. It’s going to mess up. Hopefully, mistakes will happen infrequently. But, happen they will.

What separates the good organizations from the bad is not which ones can be perfect. Perfection is impossible. Nevertheless, some managers continue to expect perfection of themselves and their colleagues. This may stem from a perfectionist personality or, perhaps, a misunderstanding of the principles of Total Quality Management 

Developed by W. Edwards Deming and others, TQM is a management philosophy and process that, when applied to the nonprofit world, involves all staff, volunteers, vendors, service recipients, and donors in the enhancement and maintenance of quality of products, services, and processes. In short, TQM is about continually striving for improvement rather than attaining perfection.

If one desires perfection, he or she will likely become quickly frustrated by problems and even sweep them under the rug. By contrast, those who embrace the idea of working for continual improvement will welcome problems as an opportunity to enhance products, services, and processes.

So, when it comes to problems or mistakes, what separates the good organizations from the bad is how the organization deals with them. Is the organization combative or defensive? Or, does the organization welcome feedback and challenges as an opportunity to improve?

This should come as no surprise to you: Those organizations that meet the latter description are more likely to provide better products and service, and they are more likely to have happy, generous volunteers and donors.

So, how can you deal most effectively with a problem or mistake?

Step 1–Understand It:

You can’t solve a problem or fix a mistake if don’t know about or don’t understand it. So, if someone tells you they have a problem with your organization or that it made a mistake, listen carefully and, then, ask questions.

For example, a donor may call you and say, “Hey, you people misspelled my name in the annual report!” Ok, the mistake is pretty clear. Even so, asking more questions will clarify the problem and, if you confirm the spelling of the person’s name, will help to minimize the risk of making a similar mistake in the future.

In another case, a donor may simply call you and scream, “You people are a pack of idiots!” In that case, the problem or mistake is completely unknown and will require some serious probing.

Remember these helpful tips:

  • When confronted with a problem or mistake, do not react defensively.
  • Do not ignore the problem or mistake.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Ask the questions that will help you understand the issue.
  • Do not be dismissive of someone’s complaint. At the very least, it’s important to the person complaining.

Step Two–Own It!

When you hear about a problem or mistake, own it. Yes, at times, this can be very difficult to do. But, do it.

If it’s your fault (i.e.: you misspelled the donor’s name), apologize. If the situation was truly outside your control (i.e.: an unexpected rainstorm forced the cancelation of an outdoor event), express regret. And, work on dealing with the situation.

I had a guest blogger whose website had a glitch. One of my readers contacted me about not being able to order a book from the site. After making sure I understood the problem, I responded to my reader by expressing regret for the difficulty, recommending a course of action to her, and telling her I would help by contacting the author.

Even though the problem did not involve my company, my website, or my book, I took responsibility for helping. By the way, the author quickly fixed the problem and was grateful to learn about it.

Remember these helpful tips:

  • Be willing to express regret and concern. Be ready to apologize.
  • Never say, “It’s not my job.”
  • Be helpful even if you’re not the source of the problem or mistake.
  • Even if you refer the issue to someone else to address, follow-up to make certain the situation is remedied.

Step 3–Consider Alternative Solutions:

Now, you’re ready to consider the entire range of solutions to the situation. For example, with the website glitch I touched on above, I considered a number of courses of action including:

  1. Simply refer the reader to the author’s contact page.
  2. Tell the reader I would handle it.
  3. Not communicate with the reader, but pass along the information to the author.
  4. Suggest that the reader contact the author directly and express that I would do the same.

By considering all possible courses of action, the best solution will eventually emerge.

Remember these helpful tips:

  • Consider all courses of action. The best solution may not be the first idea you come up with; it might be the 20th.
  • React quickly. Problems do not improve with age.
    read more »

March 16, 2012

4 Valuable Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from For-profits

I believe that the nonprofit and for-profit sectors can learn a great deal from one another. Over the past several months, I’ve had some experiences that have confirmed this belief. I’d like to share two negative and two positive encounters I’ve had with the for-profit sector and reveal the lessons I learned that can help any nonprofit organization.

Under promise, and over deliver.

I ordered a roast-beef sandwich to go from Au Bon Pain. While I’m not a frequent Au Bon Pain customer, I’ve been one for many, many years. I was looking forward to my sandwich. When I got home, I unwrapped my lunch, and took a big bite. Something wasn’t right. I spit out the bite. There was a piece of paper. I opened my sandwich and found a sheet of deli paper!

Ok, if you make thousands of sandwiches, you’re bound to a make a mistake sooner or later. However, rather than just let the incident slide completely, I thought Au Bon Pain should know about the situation. I thought they might have a new sandwich guy who might benefit from some additional training. So, I called the “800” number on my receipt.

I was not looking for anything. I just wanted to inform the store about the incident so management could be aware and take any action they deemed appropriate.

The customer service representative was very nice. She took a detailed report and said she would pass it along to the store manager. Then, she added that she would have the store manager call me personally. I wasn’t expecting that, but I thought it was a nice move.

Unfortunately, days went by without any call from the Au Bon Pain manager. So, I began to get annoyed. I thought, maybe the customer service rep didn’t pass the report along.

I called the “800” number once again. A new customer service rep took down the information again and also apologized that I had yet to receive a call from the store manager. The rep reassured me that the call would come by the end of the week.

Well, months have gone by, and I still have not heard back from Au Bon Pain.

What started out as a fairly minor problem has turned into a bad customer service situation. Au Bon Pain twice promised me that the store manager would call. Yet, I received no call. This could mean any number of things. For example, it could mean that neither report was passed on to the manager. It could mean that the manager received the reports but simply did not care.

In any case, Au Bon Pain broke its promises to me. As a result, I will no longer do business with them. I have plenty of other food service choices. I don’t need them.

If the original customer service rep had simply told me she would pass along my complaint to the store manager without promising a follow-up call, I would have been fine. I would have felt my voice was heard and that the company was taking appropriate action. Instead, I was promised something that was not delivered. Twice!

All for-profit and nonprofit organizations should under promise and over deliver. If the customer service rep did not promise me a call from the store manager, imagine how pleasantly surprised I would have been if I nevertheless received a call from the manager. Au Bon Pain could have retained me as a loyal customer.

The corollary to “under promise and over deliver” is “do not make promises you can’t keep.” If you’re going to promise something, make sure you have a system in place to ensure the promise is fulfilled.

read more »

%d bloggers like this: