Do you want fries with that?

August 31, 2011

While dining at a restaurant recently I was asked by the waiter how my meal was and if there was anything that could be improved. The meal and service were wonderful and I had only one minor suggestion. But I did end by thanking them for asking! When was the last time you were asked by a business how they could improve?

Asking may be the first step and it’s so important we do this. The third step is doing something about it. Really listening, even when what you hear isn’t what you want to hear, and acting upon it to create improvement. But there is a second step, actually being prepared for an answer.

A client recently selected a design team for a project. Soon after they received an email from one of the design teams that were not selected. They asked for my client to call them back, they would appreciate feedback and while not selected they did have some suggestions that might be of use as they moved forward on their project.

This seemed like a very professional response. They were disappointed in not being selected but understood and were parting ways on good terms and providing a value added. It really impressed the client. However, on contacting the design team leader as requested, the call didn’t go as well as one would have thought. The team lead seemed confused by the call. Why were they calling? What tips did they want? Of course the answer was, well you emailed us asking us to call YOU about tips on our project! It came from your email! Well that was pretty much the end of that conversation. All of the previous thoughts of this design company being open minded, forward thinking, customer focused, seeking feedback and providing some value added tips as a way of ensuring a good relationship and being considered for future projects was now replaced with thoughts of how unprofessional they were and 'thank goodness we didn’t select them'. Communication on this project after all was essential!  

Do you think they will be considered for a future project?

The design firm really asked ‘do you want fries with that’ and gave them fries anyway. That is, they were not really asking the question, it sounded good, they neither expected nor wanted an answer.

Do you ask how you can improve in design, construction, sales and customer service?

If you do, are you actually prepared for someone to respond?

If you get feedback do you follow through?

Do you want fries with that?

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.