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The Customer Focus

I had an interaction today that reminded me of the importance of focusing on the customer, not just pushing your product to make a sale.

Arby's Roast Turkey and Swiss Sandwich
Arby’s Roast Turkey and Swiss Sandwich
I’m a fan of Arby’s. I like their food. And while I love a good roast beef sandwich with fries and a jamocha shake, when I’m there at lunchtime, that’s rarely what I order. I’m trying to be healthier. In small ways. Trying to make healthier choices. So at lunchtime, I’ve started ordering the Roast Turkey & Swiss Market Fresh® Sandwich on whole wheat bread, with a side salad (honey mustard dressing), and a Sierra Mist. That has been my go-to meal at lunchtime at Arby’s for several months now. And I almost always visit the same location. Now I’m not a daily customer there, but I’m there several times a month, and I know I interact with the same few people each time, so I expect that my order won’t be new to them, but the interaction generally goes something like this:

Arby’s employee: Thank you for choosing Arby’s. Would you like to try [whatever product they’re promoting that day]?

Me: No, thanks. I’d like combo number 11, the Roast Turkey and Swiss.

Arby’s employee: Would you like that in a combo with curly fries and a Pepsi?

Me: Yes, I’d like that in a combo, but with a side salad instead of fries, and a Sierra Mist instead of the Pepsi.

Arby’s employee: So you’d like a side salad instead of fries. What dressing would you like?

Me: I’d like honey mustard, please.

Arby’s employee: Okay, so you’d like the Roast Turkey and Swiss with a side salad with honey mustard. Would you care to make your Pepsi a large?

Me: Yes, I’d like a large drink, but I’d like Sierra Mist instead of Pepsi.

Arby’s employee: Okay, so you’d like the Roast Turkey and Swiss with a side salad with honey mustard, and a large Pepsi. Will that complete your order today?

I don’t post this to be a jerk, or to highlight failings on the part of Arby’s or its employees. I get it. They have a highly repetitive process, with probably very little variance from customer to customer. I don’t expect an Arby’s executive or manager to read this and make drastic changes to their ordering process. And I’m certainly not going to stop visiting Arby’s.

Nor do I have a problem with Pepsi. I like their product(s). And I’m aware that Sierra Mist is a Pepsi product.

But this experience made me reflect on my own interactions with my customers, and the processes that I try to build for consistency.

  • Am I too focused on the process to really pay attention to what the customers want?
  • Does the process allow the flexibility to accommodate each customer?
  • Have I become too accustomed to delivering what previous customers wanted that I fail to uniquely diagnose the needs of the current customer?
  • Can I deliver a better experience by allowing the customer more time to describe their needs?

I think I’ll remember this for a while — the tendency to sell fries and a large Pepsi to someone who wants a side salad and Sierra Mist.

Published inBusiness