Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It's still St. Patrick's Day for a few more minutes. Greg and I had an unexpected, but quite lovely, experience with "the green." We headed out to dinner at Ken's Pizza but they were having some sort of plumbing issue - lots of work people and lots of lawn being dug up - and were closed. So, after much debate, we decided to go next door to Carlos O'Kelly's, where we very rarely go.

We were greeted at the door by a Leprechan. Now, even on St. Patrick's Day, this isn't exactly something one expects. And, for that very reason it was delightful. Our entire dining experience was more fun because of that brief interaction.

The Leprechan came through the restaurant occasionally, leaving gold coins and plastic beads in her wake.

This caused me to think about how little unexpected bits of fun can color our perceptions in major ways. I have no doubt that both Greg and I will be more eager to go Carlos O'Kellys in the future - just because we had a fun experience. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned in this for businesses.

I remember reading once about a company whose call center did an employee survey and discovered that one of the things employees kept mentioning that was missing was celebration and fun. So, the company developed a plan to celebrate everything - from the traditional birthdays to more esoteric things like, "John made the 100th sale today." The call center had the lowest retention rate for employees until this went into practice, when their rate dramatically increased. Obviously, that impacted training costs.

I have to admit, that wouldn't work for me - it's too contrived. But, I can see why it works for lots of people - particularly if you're doing a job like a call center where the routine needs to be broken up. I've never had that kind of a job, so maybe it would work for me in that case, too.

Whatever the mindset of Carlos O'Kelly's tonight in deciding it was worth the cost of having an employee dressed as a Leprechan, it worked on these two customers. Maybe it was more for employees than customers, but we both left with a favorable impression, which was also only increased by the excellent service we got. Those things add up to repeat customers.

I was ready for a nice, relaxing dinner after a day of preparation for the MHA's Potato Bar tomorrow at the Armory. The NJCAA tournament starts in town tomorrow and we hope a number of people will walk over from the arena for the Potato Bar. It's a bargain - $5 for a potato with fixings, drink and dessert. I've been baking more cakes tonight. We will start in the morning and I won't get a break all day, so it's going to be a long one. We serve from 4:30 to 7, but I'll be in motion from the morning until the night. But, hopefully the MHA will make money, and I'm thankful I'm physically able to do this sort of thing and that I have board members and volunteers who will help pull it off.

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