NO MORE BS: Perspective – Another Powerful Tool

Garfield - Good Explanation NeededI am a foodie!  I love talking about food, creating recipes for food, eating food, redesigning recipes to make food better, and have spent a lot of time enjoying gustatory experimentation!  I can discuss the finer points of chocolate and carob, ginger, spices (including the history of spices) until people are drooling and begging me to stop.  I have no mouth-brain filter where food is concerned.  I like it hot or cold, and lots of it!  Thus it is no wonder I am a fan of Anton Ego from Disney/Pixar “Ratatouille.”  Anton Ego and I are slightly different; if he does not love food, he doesn’t swallow.  Me, I will try anything and eat to know more as a learning experience; perspective.

Anton Ego has a fabulous line:

“… Do you know what I’m craving?  A little perspective.  That’s it.  I’d like some perspective.”

One of the most pleasurable experiences I have is shopping at Trader Joe’s.  This is especially true when I get a fellow customer who wants to discuss food, recipes and is looking for a gustatory experience.  There have been times I have been led to a product by a fellow customer exclaiming how wonderful that is in this recipe, that recipe, or straight out of the package.  Trader Joe’s used to carry these pretzel rolls that went so good with BBQ pulled pork, pulled chicken, or brats.  You would have thought you had died and gone to food heaven!

Trader Joe'sTrader Joe’s has previously had some great frozen desserts.  For example, ginger and lemon ice cream from Italy, a salted caramel gelato that was to die for, and several other unique concoctions that went so well with other products you would have thought they would still be carried today; except they are not sold anymore.  Perspective in food makes being a foodie my hobby of interest.

Anton EgoPerspective is also a key element in political choices, book selections, car buying, and a host of other human endeavors.  Perspective is not simply an opinion, it is a way of seeing the world, and perspective is a choice that comes with natural consequences.  Over time, the perspective choice decision cycle determines a person’s destiny, friends, desires, foods, clothing, companions, and so much more.  How do we know this is true; look to the food choices and consequences involved in the perspective choice decision-making cycle.

Consider the following example.  As a kid, my mother was a deal hunter, and one day in March, she came home from shopping with a screaming good deal on fish.  Tuna fish, to be precise, in #10 sized cans, designed for restaurants, and she had purchased multiple cases of Tuna Fish.  From March through the end of July, we kids ate tuna fish in every possible recipe as dinner.  At this time, My father returned from a National Guard 2-week event that took his unit to Puerto Rico, where some R&R saw them deep-sea fishing.  Knowing that many of the other wives would kill their husbands for bringing back a HUGE sports fish, tuna, my dad was offered the “extra” fish caught.  Two days before Thanksgiving, we finally finished all the fish!  The dog and cats would not touch fish, raccoons in our neighborhood would not touch the fish.  As a point of fact, scavengers of all types and sizes refused our yard and garbage due to the fish.  Thus, I do NOT eat anything with fish, even to this day, almost 40-years after this incident.Anton Ego 3

Perspective and choices, with natural consequences, leaves me in a NO Fish Zone!  I will eat protein from every other source, but if it’s fish, it doesn’t matter how it was cooked; you can keep it!  US Navy, Surf n’ Turf dinner night, I would turf, and the surf could go down the drain without any problem, except the smell of the surf prepared was enough to make me gag and refuse most food that night!  Boy, was this a funny joke in the US Navy, a sailor who would not eat fish.  Made only funnier when I refused to swim in the ocean.  On land, I am the top of the food chain; in the ocean, I AM the food chain!  Guess who doesn’t swim in the ocean!

Perspective and choices with natural consequences.  It has been pointed out that regardless of the candidate offered, 40% of the population on both sides of the aisle will continue to vote for the ticket; this is true for democrats and republicans.  Leaving a 20% middle ground where the elections are won and lost, provided you have honest people counting the ballots, and skullduggery have not biased the counting machines.  I am proud to be part of the 20%; I have been an independent voter since I lost a sixth-grade debate over Mike Dukakis.

Anton Ego 4A lesson I learned from that debate was the value of perception and choices, but I didn’t fully appreciate that lesson until I was much older.  Those natural consequences of perception and choice in decision-making remain a powerful tool, only if we choose to allow that perspective to change.  Religion and politics are two topics we did not discuss as children; yet, those two topics are the topics my brothers and sister struggle with the most.  Worse, the topics continue to remain a taboo subject even though religion hopping and political leanings are issues that are infecting the entire world right now.

A person’s perception and choices over religion and politics are the two topics that we all need more openness in discussing; however, emotions, lawyers, and snowflakes make an honest discussion all but impossible to have.  I have been on social media when atheists post something; if a non-atheists submits information, the tone automatically changes, accusations and aspersions are cast, and all hope of an open discussion is ruined.  I have seen the same with abortion, economics, and so many other topics.  The politics and the religion of those participating, both of which are a choice in the perceptive/choice decision-making cycle, end the honest discussion, and the tone and environment turn off people looking to discuss, worse too often, those attacking become trolls and attack outside the discussion

Anton Ego 2Part of living in a Republic is the need to form opinions based upon our individual knowledge, experience, and perspective choice decisions.  Living in a Republic is messy; this is a good thing!  The more chaotic, the better because it means freedom is alive and kicking.  When a Republic becomes less messy, people lose their rights to speech, privacy, liberty, and freedom.  Do you understand this connection and relationship?  Your perspective builds your opinions and biases.  Your opinions and biases make a Republic messy, and this is a good thing.  Please, engage and form perspectives, originate an opinion, and make yourself heard!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

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Let’s Talk Customer Service – Internal and External Processes

I have been shopping for a new financial institution since Washington Mutual was gobbled by Chase ten years ago this October.  Washington Mutual was not perfect, but they offered two things I rate all business transactions upon, ease of business, and functionality.  The functionality occurred with precision, veracity, and good customer experience.  Ease of business meant that the customer experience was not inhibited by internal processes, the need for conducting business (external) was not clogged or overshadowed by processes (internal).

Why does this matter? – Because when the customer needed a transaction concluded at Washington Mutual, the bank philosophies of ease of business and functionality made the customer experience more robust and easier for employees and customers alike.  It is to ease of business and functionality, as a core business mentality, the following is addressed, in the hopes of promoting improvements in customer attention, focus, and support.

Blue Money BurningAs a financial institution shopper, especially when the customer approaches a manager or assistant manager, regarding a poor experience, the mentality of ease of business and functionality should be the cornerstone of the conversation with customers (external & internal).  10 October 2019 – I approach the “Welcome Desk” at Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) and ask to speak to a manager.  The person behind the desk claims, “I am an assistant manager; how may I help?”  I explain, I am shopping financial institution shopping and have a problem depositing a check using the NFCU App.  Then I ask if the check I was presenting for the deposit, and the endorsement were acceptable for both an ATM and the counter.  When the endorsement was verified as acceptable; I asked, “Why is the endorsement unacceptable for the NFCU App?  To which my answer was, “The verbiage specified for deposits through the APP is different to protect NFCU from double or triple deposits of the same check.”  Interestingly enough, the verbiage is not standard across the website, the NFCU App, or the email received rejecting the deposit through the NFCU App.  Meaning, my check deposit was denied through the App because NFCU’s internal processes are insufficiently designed for ease of business and functionality; thus, the customer is inconvenienced because NFCU cannot function properly in the back office in support of front office customer facing-transactions.  Why is it an external customers job to make the back-office employees work less?

There is a trend in financial institutions, Government offices, and emergency rooms to hide the employees behind the double and triple walls of an impenetrable polymer.  Chase branches have all been upgraded, my local VA Hospital is being updated, and the local Social Security Office was upgraded several years prior.  At the Chase branch, the counters appear to have shrunk to improve the ability to hear and be heard through the thick polymer; good job Chase, Thank you!  The VA ER, no such luck, no such plans, hearing a patient’s concerns has been trumped by the business stated need to “protect the worker.”  At the local Social Security Office, the desks and counters equate to more than 4-feet of separation between the speaker and the listener, and communication is non-existent for anyone with hearing difficulties, speech difficulties, etc.  Functionality and ease of business have been eternally sundered, and the customer pays the price in time, frustration, aggravation, and the inability to conduct business.  In the dangerous times we live, it only makes sense to have a security plan, to implement security options, and to support a safe business environment.  However, security should never be the excuse for killing ease of business or functionality.  I recently traveled from Albuquerque, NM to El Paso, Texas, to visit my “local” Chase branch.  Where I then had to repeat myself no less than twice for every verbal request, and the teller had to repeat themselves the same to conduct business.  Was a transaction concluded; yes, but the functionality and ease of business were abnegated and not conducive to continuing a customer relationship.

3-direectional-balanceEase of business and functionality should not be sacrificed as a cost-savings measure or staff reduction model.  The Chase branches I have visited in the last two-to-three years have been changing, staff reductions have occurred, while automation has increased. During a previous visit to a Chase branch, three teller positions had been replaced with ATMs inside the branch office.  I applaud Chase for the investment made in making technology work; but, when I visit a branch, I want to speak to a person, not be hassled by another machine.  I want to be treated as a person whose time is as important as the banker/teller’s time, and have a human experience.  Hence, when I witness people replaced by machines, no matter how good the technology is, my cherub-like demeanor takes a significant hit.  I understand Federal Minimum Wage, State, County, City Mandated Minimum Wage Laws have all gone crazy increasing the human cost in business, I understand the need for physical security increases costs for human transactions, and I know that the human element is expensive in other ways and means, requiring more back-office work and humans.  Do not sacrifice ease of business and functionality on the alter with the humans.  If you have physical, armed guards, checking, x-raying, and hassling customers, you should not need the polymer and technical stations.  Strike a balance and err on the side of human-to-human contact, not technology.

Corporate LogosSpeaking of the need to strike a balance between technology and human-to-human contact, ease of business, functionality, and customer service, those “Self-Checkout” stations forced upon customers in retail stores remain a significant point of contention.  Home Depot and Lowe’s, thank you for not sacrificing customer attention and customer responsiveness on the altar of technology as “Self-Checkout” has proliferated in your stores.  Walmart, Smith’s, Kroger, Fry’s, and so many more stores could learn from your example.

My spouse has several Walmart locations she visits as “local.”  In every one of these stores, the same thing has transpired, the self-checkout stations have multiplied exceedingly, but the number of floor employees has dropped exponentially.  In fact, there is less customer attention in Walmart since the explosion of self-checkout than before across the five states I have been measuring; thus, I can only conclude, this is a tactical exercise from Walmart Corporate Offices to reduce staff, while not improving the customer experience.  Between the constant game of “Musical Shelves,” where products are in continuous movement from shelf to shelf and location to location, and the reduction in customer support, I find myself losing my cherub-like demeanor when trying to complete shopping.  Back in the 1990s I read a research report discussing how for every minute spent in a store, the balance of the shopping cart increases $10.00; thus, I understand the psychology of playing “Musical Shelves,” but the human-to-human involvement has led to less functionality in the shopping experience, throwing ease of business in the garbage.

Leading to the following suggestions:

  1. When looking to strike a balance between expenses and functionality and ease of business, err on the side of ease of business. Functionality will automatically improve when ease of business is sufficiently provided.
  2. Never allow a process, a procedure, and a business standard of measure to celebrate a second birthday. The ease of business should be a constant aspect of the daily workflow.  Functionality, as an extension of ease of business, should be the second prerequisite in the evaluation of processes to meet customer service goals.  Never forget, if a process, procedure, or business matrix cannot be explained completely in a single elevator ride, then that process, procedure, and business matrix are too complicated and need revision.
  3. Customer service should never involve telling a customer about an internal process. Thus, if the back-office is demanding a customer inconvenience that hinders ease of business or functionality, the back-office needs to be held to task and the process changed.

Businesses cannot long shirk ease of business and functionality and survive.  Human-to-human interactions are customer service, and when anything gets between the customer and the employee, business leadership must return focus to ease of business and functionality, not cut out the human.  Customer service should never be tossed because of technology, ease of employees, or as a staff reduction effort.  Your employee today is your customer tomorrow, and your customer today is your employee tomorrow, do you really want to proliferate problems handed to external customer’s as they become tomorrow’s internal customer?

Trader Joe'sTrader Joe’s remains the pre-eminent example of ease of business, functionality, and customer service working in an environment that is well balanced.  No self-checkout, no hassle when asking questions, and several of my local stores have added physical security without changing the human element.  Ease of business and functionality are apparent from the prices to the products, the shelves, to the physical store environment.  No technology separates the customer from a robust shopping experience that is both pleasing and adventurous.  Nothing special is done as a process by Trader Joe’s, but the ease of business and functionality promote the customer experience, which is shared by customers who spend short or long periods shopping and desire to return.  I recently witnessed a Trader Joe’s employee explaining to a customer how to improve fruit ripening techniques, the employee then went out of their way to guide the customer through what to buy and how to use the methods discussed with several different varieties of fruit.  This example is not a one-off singular event, but a regular occurrence at every Trader Joe’s store I have visited.  When you commit to ease of business and functionality, as a person and as a professional, opportunities develop.

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

An Open Letter to Trader Joe’s – Shifting the Paradigm on the Grocery Purchasing Experience

Image result for images, trader joe'sHello Trader Joe’s,

I want to thank you for an amazing shopping experience.  I have loved entering your stores across America, from Portland, Maine to Seattle, Washington, from Phoenix, Arizona, to Spokane, Washington.  I have enjoyed every location we have traveled.  I am so thrilled to buy products that are original, cleverly packaged, and where humor is a tool for improving food.  For example, during the last trip, I saw the packaging on the white potatoes relating how they (the potatoes) like hot places, cream, and much more.  The humor employed takes buying potatoes to a new, higher level as well as bringing a laugh and several smiles to the customers.

No other chain store in America pays so much attention to the customer experience.  Thank you for hiring amazing store associates!  I have never walked into a Trader Joe’s and had a bad customer experience.  Of all these years shopping at Trader Joe’s, only once have I had to return an item, and the return was done pleasantly and effortlessly.  I have had questions about products, and all the customer interactions regarding these questions were enjoyable and often entertaining.  Best of all, when I have had questions about products to buy, the crew members have had no problem offering a taste or supplying recipe information.  The freedom to meet the customer’s desires in a fun, friendly, and fresh manner makes an excellent shopping experience from coast-to-coast.

In fact, one of the most desirable things about shopping at Trader Joe’s is interacting with the crew members and the other customers in discussing recipes, flavors, and getting new ideas.  In fact, when I have had more information about a product than an crew member, the crew member has been gracious and thanked me for the helping hand.  Always, the customer experience promotes a desire to return and keep investigating for new opportunities to eat well.

I was having a rough day this past Wednesday (09/13/2017).  I went to Trader Joe’s for a quick stop and my mood began to lift.  Watching the little kids pushing the “Shopper in Training” carts, watching the kids get excited about food, and experiencing the Trader Joe’s difference was exactly what I needed.  Best of all, I saw raisin/cinnamon bread and mango chutney, and I was going to have toast upon my return home, one of my favorite comfort foods.  I cannot relate satisfactorily how much enthusiasm and smiles the customers show upon entrance at Trader Joe’s.  No other store sees this type of customer interaction, and I am grateful to you for fostering this environment for it helps other customers to enjoy the shopping experience, as well as improving the crew member’s day.

Related imageThank you for the murals on the walls, the interesting posters, the flowers, plants, cards, and new hidden treats to explore every trip.  I enjoy immensely the ginger granola, the dark chocolate crepes, the triple ginger cookies, and the list goes on.  I was in Trader Joe’s off Louisiana Street in Albuquerque today (09/18/2017) and tried “Trader Ming’s” products, a great gustatory and amusing experience.  Several times in my shopping history I have tried to taste every item, except the alcohol products, in a single Trader Joe’s store.  Never happened to date, but I have enjoyed the journey and the adventure where food and shopping meet.

I have to say, as Trader Joe’s is the sole provider of pretzel rolls in my area, I am always looking for new recipes for using pretzel rolls.  My love of all things pretzels continues to be a fun distraction and gustatory journey.  For example, two-weeks ago I bought six pretzel rolls and tried three different recipes, roast beef with sharp cheddar on a pretzel roll with some black pepper/olive oil mayonaise, which was absolutely amazing; fried egg with bacon on a pretzel roll was a great delight, your crew member suggested a coarse mustard that totally made this meal; and the coupe de resistance continues to be the pulled pork/chicken/beef on pretzel rolls with any flavor of cheese.  Hot or cold, these sandwiches make eating a new adventure.

My wife is vegetarian/vegan and appreciates having a variety of choices in her meal planning that she cannot find elsewhere from the tiny, tiny Brussels sprouts, the mini sweet potatoes and mini avocadoes, the beautiful, fresh, ripe, sweet fruit that you don’t have to wait to ripen, to coconut milk frozen desserts.  She loves the seasonal specialties, the beautiful murals and fun decor, the pleasing scents of flowers, the tidiness and cleanliness of the store, the wide aisles, and the people, the wonderful people, both customers and crew members, people who smile and laugh and share what they know and have experienced in their adventures with food in polite, kind, and fun ways.  She says it’s a little bit of heaven on earth.

I know when I see the Trader Joe’s sign, good food, good shopping, and good people are available and ready.  Thank you for more than two decades of wonderful food and people experiences.  Wherever the road has taken us, Trader Joe’s continues to follow, and it is very much appreciated.  In Ohio, I regularly traveled more than three-hours from northeast Ohio to Columbus for Trader Joe’s, a trip I was glad to make!

From a very satisfied customer, thank you!

Dave Salisbury

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved