You’ve probably never heard of a man named Howard Moskowitz, which is a shame considering he’s made more people happy than perhaps anyone over the last half-century. So who is he?
Howard Moskowitz is a psychophysicist, technically speaking. But that’s not what he calls himself. He prefers the term “optimizer,” because that’s what his clients hire him to do – make their products better. But what makes Moskowitz such a legendary figure is that we have physically ingested his work. Seriously. Moskowitz specializes in the food industry, working with some of the biggest companies (Campbell Soup, General Foods, Kraft, and Pepsico) to help tailor their products to fit our taste buds.
Moskowitz made his breakthrough while working for Pepsi. Aspartame, a chemical sweetener, had just hit the market, so Pepsi asked Moskowitz to help them make their new drink, Diet Pepsi. Moskowitz’s task was to find out how much Aspartame was needed so people would like how it tasted. Moskowitz considered this a very straightforward experiment. He started making batches of Diet Pepsi various levels of Aspartame for people to taste to see which one was the most popular. The results weren’t so straightforward. Expecting a nice neat bell curve, Moskowitz’s data was anything but. It was a clustered mess, and this troubled Moskowitz for years. Why couldn’t they find the perfect Pepsi?
The answer randomly hit Moskowitz one day while sitting in a diner. He’d been asking himself the wrong question. He’d been looking for the perfect Pepsi, but what he should have been looking for was the perfect Pepsis. There is no perfect Pepsi, but there are perfect Pepsis.
Moskowitz later went to work for Campbell’s Prego tomato sauce products. They were getting killed by Ragu in the market, despite having a higher-quality product. Moskowitz refined his experimentation and testing. In the end, he didn’t come up with a new Prego sauce, he came up with three. Plain, spicy and extra chunky. Prego exploded and Moskowitz’s revelation netted the company hundreds of millions. Today, Ragu has 36 different sauces on the shelves. Moskowitz never worked for Ragu, yet he triggered that explosion of variety that we see on the grocery shelves today.
The question you’re probably asking yourself now is “What the heck do tomato sauce and Diet Pepsi have to do with my business’ communications?”Moskowitz provides the answer. There is no perfect newsletter, there are only perfect newsletters.
We have worked with many types of clients – big, small, private sector, government, corporate offices, and field teams. Clients have different needs, that much is obvious. But what is less obvious is that two employees in a company might look at an internal communications newsletter in a totally different way. This is why company-wide newsletters are very hard to get right, and very seldom contain information that is highly valued across the board.
Newsletters are tricky. It’s hard to get your employees to read through a newsletter, no matter the content, because they are understandably busy attending to deadlines, meetings, etc. The best way to reach your employees is to make sure the content in your communications is tailored specifically to them. How do you do this? Well, first you need to know what your team needs and wants. (I’ll go into detail about this in my next post.)
And you might be thinking, “Of course the guy from the communications agency is telling me I need more newsletters. That’s more money out of my pocket and into theirs.”
This isn’t always the case. Newsletters are cheaper to produce when there’s less time spent in the editorial process. And when the audience is clear and the content is a perfect match, you’re going to get more value for each dollar you use to invest in your people.
Who is the worst boss you ever worked for? Someone immediately comes to mind, right? Perhaps there’s more than one person. Maybe your horror story is a client that was so difficult that you found a way to fire yourself from that relationship.
As years go by, we tend to add a little varnish to these nightmare stories. It becomes the legend that you share at parties when comparing nutty workplaces. Each person tells their story and everyone howls at the absurdity of the situation. I can think of three stories immediately (all true):
When I worked in a public school system Central Office, the Superintendent, who made three times more than anyone else, invited us to his home for a holiday party. There were about 20 people total. He sent out a note asking everyone to bring a dish and to give him $5 to cover the cost of the ham, which he was providing. His wife was so mortified that she welcomed us at the door with $5 bills, essentially reimbursing the “cover charge.”
Once my boss, an SVP, told me in all sincerity to keep working hard because “One day we’re going to want a woman Vice President in this company.”
Recently a client requested the design files for a completed project. He was in a hurry to get it, so we overnighted the package and sent him the tracking information. About 4 p.m. the next day he called me and unleashed a tirade that would burn your eyebrows off. The clean version is that he expected to get what he paid for and that we were cheating him by not turning over the files. A quick review of the tracking detail showed that the files had been delivered at 9:00 a.m. that morning and signed for by one of his employees. We don’t work with him anymore.
When I think about the worst people I’ve worked for or with, it fundamentally comes down to respect: I did not respect the individual or thought they didn’t respect me.
Are you the star of someone’s worst boss story? With 70% of American workers reporting that they are not engaged, there are lots of opportunities for leaders to do better. Here are few simple things you can do to connect better with your team members:
Expect the best in people-People will live up to your expectations, good or bad.
Ask and listen-When people feel unnoticed, they are less likely to care about their job.
Let people know you better-Show who you are. Talk about your favorite team, hobby or family trip so your team can get to know you.
Say thank you-It costs nothing to say thank you and it always makes a difference.
When was the last time you experienced great customer service? I’m talking about the type that amazes you and makes you smile? Perhaps we get so numbed by poor to average service that when someone does something nice, it’s like a lightning bolt. Great service is memorable and wins customers. Allow me to share two quick stories.
There’s a cool shop in East Cobb near my office. It’s a mixture of home decorating, jewelry, furniture and stuff that draws a steady crowd of women looking for that perfect gift. And they gift wrap! I can always find something I want to buy.
But I don’t go in anymore because their customer service is appalling. Every time I have ever shopped there, I stand at the register for at least 5 minutes while the employees talk to each other and completely ignore me. They seem to enjoy each other’s company immensely. No amount of shuffling or flinty-eyed stares from me can get their attention. When someone finally arrives to take my money, they zip back to their conversation as quickly as possible.
The incident that finally weaned me from my shopping addiction was when I purchased 15 small items for a mentoring session with college students. I wanted them to have a small memento of our evening together. When I asked that the items be wrapped, the cashier told me they didn’t wrap anything under $10. But I had purchased 15 items. No dice. But it says free gift wrapping. Sorry. But she did throw some gift bags toward me and said I could do it myself. It still frosts me to think about it. I realized that if I continued to shop there, I had no one but myself to blame. I never went back.
Contrast that with the experience I had on Thanksgiving Day at a Popeyes restaurant in Alpharetta. I went there to pick up a Cajun-seasoned turkey they fried for me on the spot. (It was delicious!) The manager was at the counter to greet me. The cashier asked me about my Thanksgiving plans and told me how much I would enjoy that turkey. A young man came from the back to carry the turkey to my car, even though it was drizzling and cold outside. He waved goodbye as I left the parking lot.
That team was working on Thanksgiving Day, having a good time and wanting me to do the same. They were proud of their food and took the time to make sure I had a great experience. I was so grateful to them when I left that I’ll definitely go back there, and tell everyone I know about the experience. I wish I had thought to take a photo of them—and the turkey– to post to social media.
No matter what your product, your employees are the face of your company to customers. A fantastic customer service experience, or a poor one, will cement a memory. You can be sure if your competitors offer better, more personal service, they’ll ultimately win your business.