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Archive for March, 2009

CRM Rethought (Art 2.0)

The other day I experienced what CRM is all about. An extrodinary exchange with someone who gets what customer relationship management is all about. It was the kind of exchange that changed my afternoon. The experience was “Art 2.0”.

I had overshot the lunch hour and needed to get something quick before an afternoon meeting. I wandered down the street to a local burger joint (we’ll call it Whataburger). My expectations were low.
  • I  need food
  • I need food quickly
  • I need food that resembles a burger

The last part about needing a burger is debatable but it was a part of my expectation so go with it.

After walking in the door I was greeting by an older gentlemen behind the counter. It wasn’t a grumble but an emphatic “Good afternoon sir! Welcome to Whataburger.” After nearly snapping to attention (this is not the norm at a Whataburger for those of you outside the south/southwest) I stumbled to get out, “good afternoon”.

Art continued, “Tell me about the best burger you’ve ever had.” I must say I was a bit puzzled. Remember I’m looking for a burger…quick. That’s all I need. Yet I found myself answering Art’s question and together we concocked what I consider to be the best burger ever. As I spoke he did a few things. He listened, he wrote and he contributed. I knew he was listening because he responded. He asked questions and offered his own suggestions. He scribbled intently on his notepad and asked my name. By this point I’d lost all track of time (my meeting was starting in mere minutes) but Art and I were engaged in a collaborative moment. How can you leave your partner when you’re dreaming up THE BEST BURGER EVER!

After completing this exercise I remember saying to Art, “OK now I’m going to have to go home and make this burger Art.” (I failed to mention that early on in the conversation Art introduced himself and we shook hands). Art responded, “well I can’t promise the best burger ever but I can promise a fresh one. Now, the next time you come in, I’ll have everything on your list too.” I smiled. How could I not believe him?

My order was cooked and delivered to my table (by Art). He sat down briefly and explained that he’d taken the liberty of changing out the standard Whataburger bun with a better bun. As Art said, “our buns aren’t any good and a bad bun ruins a good burger.” Wow. I happen to agree with Art. My friends and I have often commented that in the world of fast food burgers Whataburger’s tagline should be, “best burgers, crappy buns.” Now Art had taken that off the table.

I was so taken back by this I asked Art if I could ask him a few questions. Of course he offered the time. Seems as if Art spent a career in sales. When he retired he wanted to stay busy in the community so he came to work at the Whataburger where he stopped every morning for coffee. He said he couldn’t bring customers like me back to the days of the Texaco station where car hops came running when the airhose dinged but he could bring that level of service to us as an example. When I asked about the notepad he showed me. Pages of customers names and descriptions, notes on ANYTHING they’d said. And, their description of a perfect hamburger.

“What do you do with the notes Art?” (I had to know). “I head to the local market and pick up the ingredients. Next time you’re here we’ll make it for you.” I shook Art’s hand and headed to my car with countless questions in my head. Walking out I heard Art say, “Hey there Brad? Are we gonna do another blue cheese special?”

All of this at a burger chain? Talk about breaking the rules. No doubt Art’s odd approach cuts into bottom line sales per customer. But, I’d be willing to bet that it’s brining more customers back more often. Why?

Simple. Art 2.0

Thanks for reinventing yourself Art and for showing us what building customer relationships is about.

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