The story of the three cookies

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Once upon a time in a corporate office a small group of visitors were expected. An order was placed for some refreshments at the downstairs cafeteria. The office assistant selected from the pre-order menu coffee and small sweet treats for three – something nice after lunch.


When the order was delivered, it came as a bit of a surprise. There was indeed coffee and, well – three cookies. Little sweet treats, indeed. In fact, they were so tiny that a microscope would have been needed to spot them.


Well, you can probably guess where the phone rang next. And you can well imagine that those three cookies were sent back double quick.


In the little story a number of things went wrong from the customer’s perspective. For one, the three cookies didn’t meet the customer’s expectations for a little sweet treat. There’s clearly room for improvement as far as communication goes.


But why didn’t the cafeteria staff react at all when arranging the three cookies onto the plate? Didn’t it occur to them that the item was quite modest for the price of 7 euros?


I’m positive that the employee serving the cookies wasn’t the famous “underachiever who doesn’t think with their brain at all”. I’m pretty sure they were rolling their eyes and even embarrassed to bring the cookies to the meeting room.


But did they say that out loud? No. The employee made a conscious decision to rather take angry feedback from the customer than use their own judgement and violate the given process.


Why? Because the employee had before made the mistake of doing their own thing and, as a result, was told off by the boss. Compared to that, receiving feedback from a customer is a piece of cake.


This little episode says quite a lot about developing customer experience in Finland. The system is so strict, there’s basically no leeway. A seamless process always comes first, customers second.


I recommend that all managers strive to create an organizational culture that is forgiving and doesn’t require asking for permission. I’m sure there will be failures and excesses. However, at the same time I promise staff will be more committed to serving customers in a new manner. And the leeway will be back in business.


The customer also wins. They will get those essential wow experiences that make them come back – again and again.


AUTHOR - Outi Mäkäräinen