One Important Business Lesson You Can Learn From A Nursery
“To understand the [wo]man, you must first walk a mile in his [her] moccasin.”
North American Indian Proverb
My wife and I received an email from our son’s nursery that delighted us and taught me an important business lesson. The email was informing us that they will be carrying out a fire drill the following week. This was just one of the many initiatives they have been telling us about that are delighting us and reassuring us we made the right choice.
We put him in the Rainbow Valley Nursery about a month ago and we are absolutely loving it (our son included). When choosing the nursery we did our research, narrowed down the options based on location and parent reviews online, and visited the shortlisted nurseries to get a closer look. We asked a lot of questions.
We looked at how clean the place was, how friendly the staff were, what kind of facilities they had (play area, toys, toilets, changing area, etc), how safe the place was (e.g. fire exits, first aid trained staff), and what activities they have for children to play and develop.
The clincher for me was when the principle remembered my son’s name on our second visit as soon as we walked through the doors.
We were happy and comfortable with our choice. The interesting thing is that the nursery’s management and staff continue to delight us with initiatives they undertake (e.g. organizing a mother’s day event, having regular themes for kids to learn new things each day/week, reminding parents to send healthy foods for their kids when they notice some sending unhealthy stuff, giving daily reports to let parents know what the kids did that day). I’m super happy when some of the staff go out of their way to say bye to my son as I walk out with him. I am even happier when I see my son enjoying himself at the nursery and liking the staff.
All these initiatives demonstrate to us that the nursery is well managed because they are addressing what is important for us. The fire drill reinforced the safety aspect, the staff saying goodbye and exchanging “flying kisses” with my son reinforces the friendliness, etc.
Most importantly, all these initiatives show that they care about their customers and their work. It shows that they understand what parents are looking for. They are parents themselves.
Its a lesson all managers and entrepreneurs can learn: see and deliver your product/service through your customers’ eyes.
It’s a simple concept and many preach it, but few do it. If you find yourself focussing on what you’re putting into your product, shift your focus to what your customer is getting out of your product instead.
Here are a few steps to do it:
– Identify What Is Important For Customers: These will be the criteria they will use to decide on who they will buy from. What problem are you trying to solve? (e.g. have someone take care of and develop your child while you work). It helps a lot if you were a customer before. If not, you can talk to a few customers (or potential customers), observe them consuming the product, and listen to the questions they ask when they are deciding. They might not tell you what to do, but they will tell you what they want solved.
– Decide How You Will Deliver: Observe what others in your industry are doing, pick what you like, drop what you don’t, and add your own touch. So if cleanliness is important, decide how you will deliver that and build it into your operating plan (regular cleaning schedule, policies for staff hygiene, placing tissues and cleaning products where they are needed, etc). This will tell you what you need to get it done (people, equipment, supplies, etc). This is where you can be creative. Everyone might say we want to have a great experience, but how you deliver the experience is where you can add your personal touch and differentiate yourself.
– Measure measure measure: You know what and how you will deliver. Now set metrics to keep track of how well you are doing it. So again, if cleanliness is important, measure how often the facilities are cleaned. Do random spot checks to make sure your schedule/system is working.
– Live It: Go through the entire customer experience just like a customer would. Mark Cuban, owner of the Landmark theatres, goes to his theaters just like any regular customer (lines up and buys his tickets and popcorn). He doesn’t arrange any special treatment or announce he’s going in advance. He insists on experiencing his product like a customer would. This allows him, and you, to find out how he can improve the experience for customers.
– Listen: Your customer will let you know if you are doing something right and/or wrong. Don’t get annoyed when they complain. It’s a blessing if they complain to you because they are highlighting what needs to be fixed. The other way they might be telling you is by taking their business somewhere else. Not good! If you listen well and improve, you will keep more customers.
– Improve: So you have done the bulk of the work now. You identified what’s important, set how you will deliver on it, measure your progress, live and test it, and listen to your customers. Now rinse and repeat. Fix what’s not working and do more of what is working.
– Engrain it: This is the most important step. Make sure everyone in your company is part of this process. Your staff will be interacting with your customers (physically, by phone, by email, and through the product/service). Each touch point is an opportunity to improve your ratings with your customers or drop it. Oh another thing for this to work… hire people that care and will enjoy working there and treat them well.
My favorite part of the day is when I pick my son up from the nursery and see him running around playing with a big happy look on his face. Deliver a similar experience to your customers and you have a customers who love you and a business that will thrive. Hey… some might even blog about you.