For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The proverb - "For Want of a Nail" - is about preparation and maintenance. It says that by being unprepared and not taking care of your things, there can be a disastrous chain of cause and effect.
This is true in general affairs and I do strongly recommend preparation and maintenance, but that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about customer service.
Your good customers are super important. I mean, all your customers are super important, but especially your good customers.
I'm here in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. As I described in this article on long term travelling, I try to "Identify key spots when I get to a new place – exercise area, thinking cafe, good healthy cheap food" - I think it's a key part of not going crazy when you're on the road.
Here in UB, my cafe where I go to think turned out to be a place called Adesso.
I like Adesso. Great coffee, great food, great service, very comfortable, nice atmosphere, fast WiFi, power outlets, and all the lemon-flavored filtered water you can drink.
Adesso's fantastic, but it comes at a price - it costs 3x to 10x more than regular Mongolian food. You can get a coffee at a regular Mongolian cafe for 33 cents. At Adesso, it's $3. You can get a really good, hearty meal for $2-$3. At Adesso, $8 to $10.
But anyways, I've had a lot of work and phonecalls, so this place has basically become my office. So I'm dropping $20 to $30 per day here, which is a lot by Mongolian standards. The place isn't so packed, but I'm here every day for a few coffees and a couple meals.
Today, I find out that they have a loyalty card at Adesso. 10 stamps and you get a free coffee. You get a stamp when you get a meal or a drink. Ah jeez, I think to myself, I'd probably have a couple free coffees right now.
So I go tell the girl at the counter, and I show her yesterday's receipt - $33 for the place. She offers to give me... six out of the ten stamps.
That's so, so incredibly stupid.
4 more stamps is 40% of a free coffee. We're talking $1.20 in value to someone who is on pace to spend high hundreds to low thousand over the next 30-90 days here.
I ask her if she'll just give me 10 stamps. Does it really matter? No, it doesn't really matter. To either of us. A free coffee isn't a huge deal to me or them.
She says no.
I say, "Umm, I'm here, like, every day. And spending a lot. I'd probably have 20 stamp by now if I'd known about this. Can you just give me 10 and give me a free coffee?"
Well, okay then. This strikes me as "for want of a nail" territory.
I don't really care. I like the place and I still recommend it.
But I reckon the EV of saying no there was massively negative for Adesso. Inevitably, someone who is a major patron of the cafe will get ticked off and not go back, not bring friends here, and not evangelize the place.
That's really, really bad. That's a huge loss. This is for want of a nail - to hold the line on a portion of a free coffee with someone who spends a lot of time here, patronizes the place frequently, has lots of meetings in cafes, and evangelizes businesses he likes... you just got to say yes to those people when they ask for 10 stamps that they'd have earned 20 times over if they'd known about the program.
You say no to a patron (a single nail). They're in a little bit of a bad mood, and this leads to them coming less or not at at all (horseshoe lost, horse dies). They don't introduce their friends and evangelize the business (rider lost, battle lost). And, as a cascading long term effect, that might be the difference in the business meeting payroll or not - whether the kingdom falls or not.
I'll still come here. The place is good. But maybe slightly less often. Don't do this with your own customers. If you have someone who wants something not ridiculous and they're a good customer, take care of them. The little request, the nail, keeps the shoe fit, keeps the horse healthy, gets the rider through, gets the battle won, keeps the kingdom going.
Hey Sebastian - some day I'll email you.
Most lackeys don't have much power. One great technique of negotiation, especially in developing nations, is to ask to speak to the manager or owner. It works surprisingly well (from what I've seen of my dad using it!)
I've often thought about this problem myself, and I completely agree with you if the girl at the counter is a principal in the store. But if she isn't, mightn't her response is rational, maybe desired. The owner doesn't want the sales staff to have discretion to give things away - there's a big principal agent problem at play.
Sebastian, This is maybe not something you want to blog about, but I found myself thinking about this morning. I'm curious as to what you see as your current biggest challenges and weaknesses. Your written voice is wonderfully confident, I'm wondering if I met you the kinds of things we'd talk about that you struggle with in terms of discipline, getting things done, and making a better life for yourself. Dan
Sure, Dan. Good question.
For me, this is a rolling sort of thing. I'm always looking for what's broken and trying to fix it quickly, or at least take a dent out of it. But here's a few -
Family and household building - One of the top things I'd like is to be a parent and start having children. I think it's harmonious with everything else I'm working on and I feel like I'm as ready and prepared as I'm ever going to be.
There's some challenges with that, though. Building a generally successful relationship and building a household are a little bit different. My lifestyle conflicts a little bit with some of the stability that'd be desirable for parenting, and I'm not wealthy to the point where it'd be trivial to travel back and forth from home and other places.
I have a few things to report on. So here goes . . . 1. Allergies are still wreaking havoc on me, but it's not as bad as it's been. That awful cough I had is mostly gone. I should be able to sing to full capacity at my Cafe Coco show in a couple of weeks. 2. Due to a large amount of extensive physical activity lately, I've lost about three pounds. I'm gunning for about seven more. (Yay!!) 3. I should finish work on my first cap this week. It's made for a wonderful break from making scarves. I have my sights on knitting an afgan-type-of-throw-thingy some time soon. 4. Though I haven't really watched much of it this past year, I was rooting for Adam Lambert to win American Idol. Though I think Kris Allen is very talented, Adam is just so unique and different from anything else out there. I'm sure both of them will become big stars. 5. My CD will soon be available on a bunch of new online venues. The first announcement should come this week. (Hooray!!) 6. I am intrigued by the a new film that will be out later this year. I plan on seeing it in theaters when it does . . . [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn6vgh5mv0s] 7. There is another photo shoot planned for this next week. The new shots will be plastered everywhere and on all of my sites. These are going to be very fun. 8. There's lot going on behind the scenes with Oreo and Buttercup. More on this later. If you haven't checked out O and B's new twitter account. You should. It's the best way to keep up with their weekly shenanigans.
9. Back to knitting, I have to untangle this . . . in order to finish this . . . This is the tangled mess I was complaining about on twitter a couple of weeks ago. Uggh!! I really want to finish this scarf, and I'll return to it once my new cap is done. 10. Lastly, my little fashionista has been up to more dressing up lately. She is certain not afraid of animal prints. This giraffe pattern is actually quite lovely . . . The girl also loves nail polish. Bless her little heart! Well, I thought I should take some time to leave a little update on what's going on. There's more to come for sure! Hope everyone has a great week!! -gordon