Kansas University’s dean of business took time on Monday to visit the Lawrence Noon Rotary Club and told members that businesses can gain an edge by focusing more on service.
It’s important, Neeli Bendapudi said, to put oneself in the mind of the customer and encourage employees to get out of the mind-set of “what we make” and more into the mind-set of “what they buy.” It sounds simple, she said, but it’s important to get every single person in your organization to believe in that philosophy.
“I don’t care what you can do,” she said. “I care what you can do for me.”
She gave several examples to illustrate her point.
l Pretty in pink, or not: A major hotel chain once decided it wanted to become a major destination for an increasing number of women business travelers. Its solution? A whole floor where everything was pink. The idea flopped, Bendapudi said, and it’s a good reminder to use more than one method to determine what the customer wants.
“They meant well, but they missed the boat,” Bendapudi said.
l Water cooler chat: The shipping company UPS once conducted a survey of people who received packages at businesses — mostly secretaries, Bendapudi said. It asked what they valued most from their delivery person. The top answer was “on time delivery.” The company, using those survey results, micromanaged their drivers to prioritize on-time deliveries. And it worked. On-time deliveries increased, but customer satisfaction went down. UPS asked people to bring pictures of what they wanted to see from their delivery person, and people brought back pictures of water coolers and coffee cups. The company was confused until it realized people were missing the interactions with the drivers.
“Now he’s too busy for me,” Bendapudi said. “He just brings the package and runs.”
She said it showed how it was important to focus both on the emotional and rational sides of people.
l Reward the right stuff: She warned against “rewarding A and hoping for B.” If a business has a culture in which it rewards top sellers and fires the worst-performing sellers, it shouldn’t expect its workers to share ideas on how to best sell products, because sharing would benefit a competitor/co-worker.
l A living brand: A brand and cool logo and spiffy jingle won’t get you there alone, she said. What really matters is people. Bendapudi, who came to KU from Ohio State University, remembered eating at a restaurant called Friendly’s with her daughter’s youth sports team.
“That one day, in Columbus, Ohio, at the Friendly’s restaurant, nobody was,” she said.
And that’s what people will remember, she said.