20 May Picking What We Say Yes To

One of the more memorable characters on the TV series Seinfeld was the Soup Nazi. At his store, customers had to follow very specific ordering procedures: Keep the line moving; ask no questions, make no comments, and offer no compliments; hold out your money, “speak your soup in a loud clear voice,” then step to the left and pay the cashier; do not “embellish your order.”

Those who broke the rules left with an empty bowl and “no soup for you!” ringing in their ears. No matter how belligerent the Soup Nazi’s behaviour became, no one cared, in fact, the customers just kept coming back.

The Soup Nazi, who was based on a real soup restaurateur in Manhattan, was able to enforce such a bizarre sales strategy, to the point that customers waited without complaint to buy his product, because he said “no” to everything that distracted him.

Define what to say “yes” to

Few people like hearing the word “no,” or even saying it. It’s a blunt word, and there seems to be no way to soften it. But “no” can also be a powerful, proactive word, because the act of saying “no” actually helps define what to say “yes” to. Saying “no” helps define your focus, and challenges your “yes” proposition at every step of the way. In fact, a leader must say “no” to some things in order to stay profitable.

Saying “no” gives a business the opportunity to address its own key priorities: maintaining a lower price and giving customers better value. It enables a business to do something that other people say is impossible—like serving a great quality soup at a reasonable price.

The Soup Nazi made it possible by implementing rules that allowed him to say “yes” to the right things:

  • One soup style per day meant “yes” to focusing on quality.
  • A cash-only policy kept him solvent and kept the line moving quickly.

Anyone who didn’t follow the rules was kicked out because they were unprofitable. The Soup Nazi – the real one – had as few rules as possible.

Turning “no” into a positive

At Qualifirst, our struggle has been that in order to please the customer we have been saying “yes” to everything. We do not need to become as extreme as the Soup Nazi, but we do need to do a better job of identifying what we say “yes” to, as well as the questions and requests that we can no longer accommodate.

Soon, our customers will be able to turn to our website to find answers to such questions as:

  • Do you have stock?
  • When is my special order arriving?
  • Is my order on delivery?
  • What are the ingredients of a product?

Each customer will be able to choose to receive as many automated reminders as they want while their order is being processed.

Consequently, we will have the opportunity and the obligation to say “no” to requests for information that is available either on the website or through email alerts. We must instead say “yes” to those activities that provide additional value to our customers.

This will not only allow us to cover every segment of the market and increase our customer base, but it will also make all of our “yes” propositions more convenient for our customers, who will be getting exactly what they want, every time.

The Soup Nazi was made into a comic character precisely because his abrasive tone was unusual for retail customers who expected carte blanche in the name of customer service. I believe, however, that underneath this comic caricature, there is a solid lesson to be learned. Customers are best served by getting what they need in the most efficient way possible, and sometimes that requires trimming down the excess and getting right to the point.

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