How Can I Make You Happy?

“Is everything OK?”

“No sir, the pico de gallo is a little old.”
“Oh.  Is it mushy?”

“Yeah, it’s actually a lot mushy.”

“Alright.”

And off he went.  All I could do was watch him carry on with his business of wiping down tables and refilling glasses of tea.  What the hell?

I was having lunch at a local Tex-Mex restaurant that I enjoy.  Their food is above-average, their offerings are much more interesting than the frozen and canned offerings served by the numerous $5.99 lunch special “Mexican” factories, and their prices are fair.  I had ordered a side of black beans with my taco basket, and the beans come topped with pico de gallo.  Tooth of the rooster, that’s the translation, pico is usually diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro with salt and pepper.  As I lifted a fork of the beans to my mouth, I smelled something daunting, a strong aroma that was out of place.  I took a small taste and as I rolled the beans and pico around, I took a good look at the tomatoes.  They were covered in a pasty gray film.  I discreetly used my napkin to remove said tomatoes then looked for a staff member, and waited.

draft-taps

How about if I bring you some fresh black beans and pico de gallo and a cold beer to boot?

 

The young man that had delivered my food walked past and that’s when the conversation ensued. And he shrugged his shoulders and carried on.

Why?  Was he not used to someone complaining about the pico or the food?  Had he not been trained in problem solving?  Did he not care?

I was trying to be discreet because there were other people seated near me and I didn’t need to blurt out, “Hey pal, this is spoiled!”  As I said, I like this place and I’ve had many enjoyable meals there.

A minute later my waitress walked past so I smiled and asked for a hand.

“Yes?”

“This pico de gallo is very old.”

“Oh, sorry about that.” And she kept on about her business.

Oh come on people!  Make it right.  Ask the customer, “how can I make you happy?”  There was twenty five cents worth of pico de gallo on my $9.00 lunch and these two kids are about to blow this restaurant’s reputation.  For Pete’s sake, will someone make a decision here.

A minute later she walked past and I stopped her.

“I was trying to be discreet earlier because this pico de gallo is spoiled.  Please throw it out and bring me some fresh black beans with fresh pico de gallo.”

Well that got her attention.  She quickly returned with what I asked for. And I also had my next blog post.

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, your front line people should be trained in conflict management and problem solving.  If your promises are not being delivered, find out why, ask questions, and train your people to take care of business, right now.  Give them permission to solve the problem right then and there.  We don’t need to go get the manager, we can solve this right now.  How can I make you happy? Let me go get you some fresh beans and pico and how about a cold Thomas Creek to go with those beans?

Don’t let a twenty five cent serving of anything derail years of hard work.

Now that that’s off my chest, how may I help you?

Googled

A thousand dollars a month.  That’s what my client was spending on Google Ads.

Yikes!

Yet when he came to me, he had one goal.  “Keep me up front on my Google search results.”  Well sure, that’s easy if one has a significant budget for Google Ads but eventually that money’s going to run out.  Then what? He had a significant following on Facebook but lately it’s been tough to get noticed on that blue juggernaut unless you’re willing to put money behind your updates.  And how do you get Facebook money turned into meaningful Google search results?  Most marketers know that one needs fresh web content to make a dent in Google, but with everyone else in a competitive segment creating fresh content, one’s content better have legs.

Legs

Will your content turn the right heads?

 

And that means publishing something of value, an essay that will be enjoyed, shared and commented on. So I wrote an emotional post on how quickly our children grow and change. That’s a familiar theme that every parent can identify with, yet I kept it around five hundred words. Then I utilized his significant Facebook following by posting at the right time, in this case on a late Sunday afternoon.  I put $20 behind the update to make sure that a majority of his followers had the opportunity to engage with his website. And 24 hours later, I had the desired results.

Keep in mind that my client is in a fairly competitive field and his business model requires a significant number of daily visits to his medical office.  His patients are his lifeblood, but his patient’s parents are paying the bills.  My post appealed to the parents, tugged at the necessary emotions and reminded them why they patronize my client in the first place.  And the client got what he was looking for: Google search results, shares, comments, and thank yous.

Would you like to read my post?  I’d love to share it but I can’t because I promise this particular client anonymity.  When his clients tell him “I love your writing”, he just smiles and says “Thank you.”

Hey, he’s signing the checks, right?

May I help you?  My rates are affordable and I can customize my services to fit your needs.  And I’m a published author that knows how to get readers. Give me a call and we’ll talk.

 

Faster, Harder, Farther

I’m a fairly emotional guy. I don’t mean that I cry often, rather I tend to linger over fond memories. Perhaps too much. Maybe that’s why I enjoy looking through old photographs. Recently my wife asked me to help her find a photo of us from Mardi Gras. We broke out stacks of real photos and spent a few hours reminiscing. The memories flooded past in glossy, colorful, slightly faded pieces of our lives. Four by six, five by seven, and a few wallets; California, Romania, Louisiana, New York, London, and South Carolina. And I found myself wanting to make memories worthy of a photograph.

Taking a photo used to be a big deal. You had to carry a camera, film, and perhaps an additional lens. Then the film had to be developed, photos were printed and paid for. So one only carried a camera if you were going to do something worthy of the trouble and expense. Today it’s so easy, it’s not uncommon to share a photo of a peanut butter and jelly in the process of being made. And where’s the adventure in that?

I want to take more photos like this one, and less of my sandwiches.

Looking Glass

A poorly-timed photograph taken on the top of Looking Glass Mountain, late fall of 1998. That’s my faithful Jack Russell Terrier, Bonnie and my wife Amy holding her leash. As usual, Bonnie is waiting for me.

 

If you’re familiar with dogs, Jacks are notoriously high-strung. They’re smart, energetic, and relentless. Once they decide to do something, there’s no stopping them. And Bonnie was no different. If we went for a hike, a swim in the ocean, a long walk, or a car ride, it was never enough just to go. She had to go faster, harder, farther. Case in point, in this photo she is as usual, waiting on me.

In our relationships, both personal, and business, we should all have a Bonnie. A faithful companion that extols us to success. Someone that we love and respect, someone that we’ll go that last mile for.

In one of my endeavors, I have an entire team of Bonnies. In July, I’ll ride across the state to raise money for the SC Alzheimer’s Association and I’ve got some teammates to encourage and push me to success. Yet I still feel like I’m missing something. I need someone to encourage and push me in my business relationships, and it feels like that’s missing from my life. A friendly competitor, someone to race me to the top of the mountain then pat me on the back when I’ve come in second, or third. We all measure success differently and I don’t use money as a yardstick. Are my kids becoming responsible? Am I protecting my family? Are my clients happy and are they getting their money’s worth? Because life isn’t about the destination, it’s really about the journey and our journey begins anew every morning. And today I’m going to try and pray harder, run quicker, pedal faster, and make my clients happier. And I’d like to do this while I work towards taking more photos of real adventures, and less photos of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Do you have a Bonnie in your life? Someone, or some dog, that is constantly pushing you to success? I think I do, I just need to remind them.

Will it Crush Ice?

I bought a blender a few months ago.  An Oster bar blender.  I paid $39.99 at Target.  My old Cuisinart blender gave up the ghost and a couple days later I was hustling through Target when I saw a big display of  these blenders, so I picked up my new blender.  And barely two months later, the plastic base had worn out.  So I got on their Facebook page, sent Oster a close-up photo and a description of the damage, then assumed that would be the end of it.  After all, this was a $40.00 blender and I’ve had plenty of disappointments when dealing with the social media accounts of large corporations.  Trek bicycles, for instance, is great at telling the world that there’s a handful of men that get paid to travel the world and race on Trek bicycles, yet they’re lousy at the rest of their social media.

About three hours later I received a reply from Oster.  Then a phone call from a very courteous gentleman.  After discussing the issue, Oster decided to send me a new blender.

Oster B

“Um, all I really need is a new plastic collar.”

“Well, we’d like the whole thing back so we can see if there’s any manufacturing adjustment we need to make.”

“Well sure, of course.”

 

About ten days later I received a brand new blender from Oster.  I packed up the damaged blender in the same box, and the next day  off it went.

And that is a great example of customer service and the efficacy of social media.  I recently gave a presentation on my services and issued this statement: “Your customers would much rather interact with your company through social media than through email or your website.  And the potential client wasn’t sure that was accurate.  And I’m here to say that it is.  If your business is on social media, you better make sure that it’s social and that you’re using it to take care of your customers.

And now I need to crush some ice.

I Predict a Tie

As Rich Gore made his way to the front door of my restaurant, I put an arm around his shoulder, pulled him close and mumbled, “I’m gonna wipe the floor with Phillipe.”

Rich pulled on his jacket and smiled casually.  “Malik, I’m gonna predict a tie.”

Once upon a time, I was a B list celebrity chef with an A list ego.  And I’ve also had a competitive nature for a very long time, and while that nature has many positives, it also comes with a bit of a downside.  And that’s what led me to spend an afternoon in a local shopping mall wearing a chef’s coat and a red silk boxer’s robe.  The Food Network was in town with a travelling live show that included a wine tasting, cooking demos, cookbook signings and a cooking competition; but with a guy like me on stage, I planned on winning, no questions asked.  Cue the theme from Rocky.  But over in the producer’s corner was Rich Gore.  And he was going to make sure the whole thing ended in a tie.

When show time came the next day, myself and Chef Phillipe Chin each had a mystery basket of ingredients, a picked-from-the-audience assistant, and a pantry of dry goods, the MC Bill Boggs, and a special guest in none other than Southern food authority Nathalie DuPree.  We had thirty minutes to cook and an audience of a couple hundred shoppers watching and cheering us on.  Like many other cooking demonstrations I’ve done, it was on a narrow stage with a minimum of equipment, and little room to work.  But that can be a lot of fun, and I’ve always been good at making do with what I have.  When Nathalie called time, I believe I had three different dishes.  Likewise Phillipe.  And I have no idea what I made, I can’t remember.  But I will remember the next few minutes for a very long time.  Mr. Boggs announced that the winner would be declared through the audience’s reaction and that our producer, Mr. Gore, would measure their reaction trough his computer.  I looked down at Rich as he donned a pair of enormous headphones.  In one hand he held a heavy laptop computer, in the other he hoisted what looked like the antennae from an old Chevy.  The antennae had a wire wrapped around it and it was plugged into his computer.  And those of us on the stage were the only ones that knew the laptop wasn’t turned on.  Rich stood up and waved that antennae around and pretended to listen intently to the beeps of his reaction-judging software while Bill Boggs had everyone cheering first for me, then for Phillipe.  After a couple of minutes, Rich whipped off his headphones and with unbridled enthusiasm announced: “It’s too close, we gotta do it again!”

Super Chef!

Cue the theme from Rocky!

And I stood up there laughing myself stupid.

We did the whole thing again and Bill really got everyone screaming and yelling, first for Phillipe then for me.  Rich directed his antennae towards the loudest screams and the shouts, his eyes wide and intent on judging their enthusiasm.  Finally he ripped off his headphones, threw his arms into the air and with a look of shock and disbelief announced a tie.

“It’s too close to call. It’s a tie!”

Phillipe and I were both laughing so hard that Phillipe chided me.  He was afraid we would give away the secret.

“Chef! Behave, behave.”

“Yes, Chef.”

What was at stake?  From the chef’s point of view, not much.  Phillipe and I both had solid reputations; there was no money riding on the outcome, no contracts to star in the latest cooking show, no kiss from the local beauty queen.  What was at stake was Rich’s reputation and his desire to be successful.  And he measured success in the audience’s laughter, smiles, and applause.  So what if the chicken dishes were thrown together in thirty minutes or less, did the audience enjoy the show?  And the answer was yes. When we came off the stage, me and Phillipe signed autographs, took handshakes and returned a lot of smiles.  And the biggest one was from Rich.

“What’d I tell ya, Malik?  It was a tie.”

That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me for a long time. Is your audience getting what they came for?  Have you engaged your audience, your staff, your customers, or your family?  Are they having a good time enjoying the show, their job, or just their day?  When you’re on the stage, the real winner should be the audience.

Thanks, Rich.