Oranges? Or Olives?

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
– Roger Staubach, NFL Hall of Fame Champion

I was talking with some practice managers in Jacksonville recently about the customer service imperative.  Like every other business, we rely on our customers and need to always remember that they invite us to participate in their care.  And they have options if we don’t make a habit of exceeding their expectations.

I shared an experience from the night before when I tried to order a beverage at the local Bahama Breeze.  Now, most who know me know that my typical beverages are coffee, iced tea, or water – most of the time – but, in this case, I tried to order a Blue Moon.

If you know about Blue Moon, it’s intended to be served ice cold with a fresh orange slice right in the glass.  It’s a great summertime beverage and, in this case, I was hoping it would compliment the end of a long and full day of travel.

Imagine my surprise when our server returned to our table and announced, “Sorry, Sir, but…we’re out of oranges.  What else can I get you?”

Out of oranges?  In Jacksonville, F L O R I D A ???   (Note:  The Great Wiki and others suggest that The Sunshine State produces nearly 70% of the oranges produced in the United States.  Being “out of oranges” in Florida is a bit akin to being “out of country music” in Nashville.)

Somewhat mystified, I may have inquired as to the proximity of the nearest grove, suspecting that someone may answer with “right over there.”  Ultimately, I made an alternative selection and awaited the server’s return.

A bit later, another team member appeared and proudly announced that, in fact, they had located an orange.  He went on to say that his co-worker (our server) didn’t look in the produce cooler, rather, he had seen that they were out of orange slices up front and then “assumed they were out.” He didn’t check the inventory.  Or, as Roger Staubach might say, he didn’t go the extra mile.

While kind of the other team member to “close the deal,” he should have withheld his commentary to preserve the customer relationship.  No need to call out another team member’s laziness.

No big deal, right?  Perhaps.

But here’s the reality.  Everyone at our table got a bit of a chuckle out of the “we’re out of oranges” moment.  As I shared with the managers, though, the real issue is that “the orange” is what we now remember about the experience there.  I suspect that the good folks at Bahama Breeze would prefer that we remember the food, the environment, and the overall service – as those factors are more likely to bring us back again.

As I told the practice managers, the experience in Jacksonville reminded me of a similar but better experience in Indianapolis last December.  We were in Indy for the Titans-Colts game in early December and, although we live in Nashville, were there to root on our beloved Colts.

One of our game-day traditions in Indy is to enjoy the pre-game brunch at Palomino.  My wife and I have been long-time, loyal patrons of Palomino since its opening in the mid-1990s.  Great food; great service – and it’s only about six blocks to Lucas Oil Stadium.

We were sitting down to enjoy brunch with friends when one member of our party ordered one of Palomino’s specialties – a Bloody Mary, with extra olives.

A few minutes later, our server returned with everyone’s beverage order – except the Bloody Mary.  Smiling, he advised that it would be “right out.”

Just a few short minutes later, he returned and presented the recipient with their Bloody Mary and extra olives, yet he was noticeably drenched.  Soaked.  Wet.

Noting that it was pouring down rain outside, I asked him why he was all wet.  He smiled and replied that he had run across Maryland Street – a busy downtown street – to another restaurant.  It seems that Palomino was out of olives, yet he wanted to meet his customer’s expectations and ensure they enjoyed that Bloody Mary – with extra olives, just as they ordered it.  In other words, he took ownership and went the extra mile.

Happy customers tip well.  And they come back.  I can assure you that the drenched, smiling young man at Palomino did well on our table that day – well earned and well deserved.  And we will be back next season to enjoy our pre-game brunch at Palomino…and we’ll look for him and request him specifically, knowing that we can’t go wrong there.

Alternatively, I doubt our team will go out of our way to return to Bahama Breeze during our next trip to Jacksonville.  Not that anything was particularly bad about our experience there – it was a decent meal with great colleagues.  But there’s not much else that’s memorable enough to draw us back there.

And so, I wonder…are we serving oranges?  Or olives?

My hope is that we serve those in our care with the same urgency as the drenched young man with the olives.  If we set their expectations ahead of our own and demand the best for their every visit, we can be sure to establish long and rewarding relationships with them.  And that’s good for everyone involved.

Be well, Friends.  Go the extra mile and enjoy the olives.

T.

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