Give ’em the Pickle
One of the hot business books, although it’s been around a while so it’s not exactly new, is Bob Ferrell’s Give ’em the Pickle. Ferrel owned a chain of restaurants. His aha moment came when he received a complaint letter from a former, long-time customer describing his (the customer’s) pique with Ferrell’s restaurant. It seems that for several years the customer had been accustomed to getting an extra slice of pickle with his burger, but one day, when he asked a new waitress for his extra pickle, she told him that she would have to charge him. He was irate and wrote Ferrell an angry letter, vowing never to return.
Ferrel got the message. He realized that he hadn’t shared his philosophy of customer service with the folks working for him, so he used the pickle episode to develop a training program for his employees. The concept is the epitome of simplicity. A pickle, according to Ferrell, is something you do to make someone happy. He empowers employees to “give ’em the pickle”; that is, find something extra they can do to make customers happy.
I know, I know. You’re thinking it’s another Fish Tales, One-Minute Manager, or Who Moved My Cheese cutesy kind of management book. It’s another management fad, like TQM or MBO. Maybe not.
In Ferrell’s words: “When something happens with a customer and you’re not sure what to do, ‘Give ’em the Pickle.’ Do what it takes to make things right.” That’s way more than a management fad. It’s a business philosophy.
Where do you stand, and what does this have to do with in-plants, anyway? Do you treat problems as ways to help your customers, or do you have a bunch of ungrateful, whining customers with unreasonable demands? Did you go out of your way to help a customer once, and now they EXPECT that same level of service every time? Do you look at rush jobs as an opportunity for you to show your real value to the company, or do you view them as an indication of your customer’s failure to plan (and therefore not your problem)?
Ray Chambers, CGCM, MBA, has invested over 30 years managing and directing printing plants, copy centers, mail centers and award-winning document management facilities in higher education and government.
Most recently, Chambers served as vice president and chief information officer at Juniata College. Chambers is currently a doctoral candidate studying Higher Education Administration at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU). His research interests include outsourcing in higher education and its impact on support services in higher education and managing support services. He also consults (Chambers Management Group) with leaders in both the public and private sectors to help them understand and improve in-plant printing and document services operations.