Saturday, February 25, 2012

Find the candy!

There’s a potentially high demotivation factor when you feel like your job makes little impact in the larger scheme of things. Truth is, seemingly mundane jobs stand to make critical contributions to an organization’s success. For this to be so, however, the people that have the supposedly “non-critical” positions have to take the lead.

A start-up building supplies manufacturer had the problem of making a big splash in a crowded market and their brand needed attention.  To get that attention, the company invested in all the right advertising and marketing stragegies, and hired a crack team of managers.  But what really made the biggest splash with new customers was a big surprise:  It was the team that shipped pallets of tile from the warehouse every day.

How did they do it? 

They put candy in every shipment of tile that they sent from their distribution centers to their customers.  

When asked why, the team in the warehouse said, “Because we thought it would be fun to do.”  It was not long before warehouse teams in the customer base were thrilled when that company’s shipments of tile arrived!  If five deliveries from five separate companies arrived simultaneously at the dock, guess which one got the handled first?  To put my own spin on a Jim Gaffigan joke, “When you put candy in a pallet of tile, it’s not a pallet of tile any more.  It becomes a game of “find the candy in the pallet of tile!”

What happened next was most surprising.  The delight delivered by the candy opened relationships with customers at the operational level, at a point where they almost never happen.  Those interactions, in turn, provided a wealth of information and insight for the manufacturer. And as they acted upon what they learned, it eventually set them far apart from other competitors.  That’s because being a “supply chain champ” depends more on relationships and less on expensive information management and supply chain solutions. That’s what a McKinsey survey showed and who am I to argue with them?

So what’s the lesson here?  Ask your whole team, “Where can we deliver candy these days when people think we are only going to give them Product X or Service Y?”

You may be surprised by the number of ways you discover to sweeten the deal for your customers.

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