Friday, January 15, 2010

Can't Be Done!

It's late in the evening.
I am heath conscious, my kids are not.
Kids win.
We walk into a KFC outlet in Bangalore.
No serpentine queue! (Yes there are fast food joints in Bangalore that are near empty on Weekends!)
One kid wants the regular crunchy chicken and the other hot wings.
So I ask the person at the counter to give me a regular bucket that contains both.
No! Can't be done.
He doesn't know. Just can't be done. Company policy I suppose.
I try to offer logic: "The price of a regular bucket of both varieties is the same. So just mix them up. You don't lose anything." - water on duck's back.
Finally I settled for one; Hot Wings can wait for another day - if I return, that is.
Copious number of management books are churned out from the press in USA and Europe. I am not surprised.
Because with this kind of front-end service, these companies will need lot more education.

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avdi said...

That is where a locally owned outlet would score. Even my vegetable wallah sometimes mixes vegetables that i require in less quantity together.

Anjana said...

I am sorry but my sympathies are totally with the KFC employee here. Think about it, as a consumer, when you enter a store, the power equation is hugely in your favour and you are aware of it. You therefore, cannot handle it when the sales person (who, in the any consumer's head is many levels beneath his social class and status) turns around and refuses to humour you. Think about it, you have actually asked him to alter the composition of his product offering. It may hamper the sensorial experience of the KFC product and not to mention, the several logistical issues at his end. Price alone cannot be used as a comparison here. Would you feel this way, if a Client/ customer that you interact with, turns around and says he cannot alter his company policy for you. That would have elicited a different response because the power equation is probably different.

Anyways, i think in this situation, you were particularly angry because you had to choose between the preferences of your two sons. It did not make you feel like a 'fair father' perhaps.
- Anjana

Amitabh said...

@Anjana, You give a socialist twist to the whole issue. You assume I was angry. In fact, throughout the transaction and after when we were served, there was no word spoken in anger or in disappointment. Those who know me would vouch for the fact that I never ever express my disappointment in harsh words to a person I do not know.
Leaving the unequal power equation angle aside, I recommend that the next time you go to KFC have a look at how the "backend" operates. The chicken pieces are a continuous supply. All kinds are filled in separate bins and the people in the front load the buckets from the bins. As and when the bins get empty a shout goes out and the bins are refilled. I do not think logistics would suffer if there is a funny demand from a customer.
My point is just this: As a business, KFC suffers. Assume there was a really motivated person at the counter. He would have told me that it is not the company policy to mix and match, but that he is doing it nevertheless as there is another company policy not to disappoint the customer. And then he (or she) would have sent a word back to their main office (or whoever decides) that a mixed bucket probably would sell more. Now. isn't this most of the management books preach - make the customer happy and look out for opportunity; and that the front end employees are the one who have the maximum opportunity to pick up the opportunity?
Of course, I am assuming that there would be other customers like me and that a mixed bucket of standard size would be profitable, but one wouldn't know till an attempt is made. An attempt wouldn't be made till a company is willing to give its employees enough leeway to experiment.
Do you see where I am coming from?
@Avdi is correct when she talks about the vegetable vendor. The vegetable vendor is not bound by company rules. That person does what will get him permanent customers and make his business profitable. This person has the flexibility that the MNCs don't - which is a pity.

Anjana said...

Thanks for your reply and taking pains to explain your point of view.

While I may not be a regular at KFC, because I am not particularly fond of the food there, I have worked for them and I know the amount of research that goes into figuring out the right product offer for their consumers. In fact, they are really quite alert to consumer requirements and are quick to make changes to their product portfolio. Alright, I assumed you were angry but the point I was trying to make is that consumers are not rational human beings. A lot of what determines consumer satisfaction at a store, is a part of his sub conscious. It is not something that is overt or visible to everybody else.
So, I see where you are coming from, but not through the same lens, as yours. It is not about being right or wrong, but about a point of view.

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