Two Stores on an Island: Details Matter

Most days I eat at a busy shopping center food court that is located in a tourist area.  Among the franchise and other vendors at the food court are two independent sandwich shops. One of those sandwich shops has earned my loyalty.

One day at lunch, I noticed that “my” sandwich shop was busy with a long line of customers waiting to order, but the other shop had no customers at all. All through lunch, my shop was bustling and busy, customers walking up, being greeted, placing their orders, and waiting for their food; the other shop had just the occasional customer.

I realized that this was the pattern for all the years I had been eating at this food court. Why, I wondered, this stark difference?  After all, the food on offer is approximately the same, the prices not much different, the customers are largely first time visitors who had not built a loyalty to one shop or the other, and yet, there was such a disparity in the number of customers. I looked more closely at both shops.

The food was indeed similar in sandwich fare, with one also offering pizzas and the other adding Mexican food. Since both cuisines are equally popular with locals and visitors, the food was probably not causing the customer volume difference.

I then focused on the presentation of the shops. “My” shop has its counter arrayed with freshly made pizzas, the oil glistening and reflecting the light from the bulb. There are bread buns and salads on display, the signage is clear and easy to read, and the offerings are organized according to similarity of items being sold. The food preparation and kitchen areas are open to inspection—I can tell who is making my sandwich and if an adjustment is called for, I can alert the prep person.

The other shop meets the public with a wall of refrigerated display cases holding water bottles and soda cans, and shows nothing of the food being sold. The menu board, new and jazzy, has such a colorful and busy background it is a struggle to read the actual offerings and their prices. A glass vase for tips confronts customers with a handwritten cardboard sign announcing “Tipping, good karma”. A solid wall between the front and the kitchen prevents even a glimpse of food or preparation.

The workers at my shop are visible to the customers and greet each one in line eagerly and with a smile. The workers at the other shop are often not even at the front counter and rather than being welcoming, carry an expression of being bothered when a customer does get their attention to place an order.

Details matter.

There are sandwich shops all over the United States. Some do well, others don’t. And very often the difference is neither food nor location, but the details that make the shops different. The kind of bread, the toppings, the way the shops are laid out, the ease of ordering, whether the employees are friendly. Does the shop make the customer feel welcomed and comfortable that the food will be well prepared?

Details matter.

Each decision, some made at the inception of the shop and others added on as the experience is gained, changes the perception of the shop—so much so that a first time visitor to the food court will gravitate to one shop.

HDEP International has been in business since 1983. Like any sandwich shop in the United States, we started with basic decisions on the kind of company we wanted to be. As we gained experience, we added details to our production processes, to the way we communicate with our customers, and to our internal policies. We keep the customer’s best interest at the heart of each decision. We know that the title insurance industry is a complex, high-liability business, and our customers are hesitant to give up control over their production processes. The details matter, from acknowledging receipt of an order to alerting the customer if an unusual event may delay its completion; from the statistics and exception reports that accompany each transmission to the details in the invoices that allow the customer to track each order, and post it to the correct internal accounting code.

Many customers hesitate to consider outsourcing because they are unsure that anyone outside their company can have an understanding of their requirements and their market. If you have hesitated to consider outsourcing, please call us. We’ve been taking care of the details for almost 30 years and have earned the loyalty and trust of our customers.

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