Monday, April 24, 2006

ROCI #2: Customer Dialog (Tasty's Donuts)

I always think so much more clearly when I've written things down.

I've decided to trade in my Subway Club points for free sandwiches, and start going to Tasty's instead whenever possible. Half of why I've decided this is in the previous post about Subway. In general, I don't cough up enough positive company reviews on this blog, so here's one for the books.

Tasty's Donuts (motto: Try Me, I'm Tasty!) is a Utah-based donut and sandwich shop franchise. In the last five years or so, they've worked really hard to upscale their locations. It's worked. The Tasty's in Layton is spacious, comfortable, and has 1950's-era poster-sized family photographs on the walls with bags of Tasty's donuts photoshopped in. The brand is zany and lovable. When I was in high school, they had a regal donut mascot with arms, legs, eyes, and a crown.

Ah-hah! I guess he's still around!

I forgot about the scepter and bow tie. How could I be so silly?

Anyway, it's a great brand, but that's not why we're here. We're here so that I can tell you why I love Tasty's.

  1. Their sandwiches are really good. The produce is more fresh than at Subway, the meat tends to be cut thicker, and the bread is really great. Subway bread is good, but rises a lot and ends up really fluffy and tall. Tasty's bread isn't heavy, but it's substantial enough to hold a sandwich together and it has the added bonus of you can fit it in your mouth.
  2. Their donuts are really good. Krispy Kreme doesn't have a thing on Tasty's. They're that good.
  3. The service is always great. It doesn't matter if I drive up or walk in. Tasty's employees treat me like the gold that I am, whether they recognize me or not. (I'm still nobody, anyway.)
  4. When they mess up my order, I point it out and they make it right.
No matter how good your business is at what it does, you'll screw up from time to time. Proper handling of customer complaints can define your brand.

One day about two years ago, I ordered lunch at the drive through at Tasty's. After I left, I discovered the wrong size sandwich in my bag, and no free donut. I called the phone number on the receipt expecting someone at the store, and instead got Tasty's corporate office.

The guy on the line asked what the issue was, and I explained that the store had messed up my order. He asked how much I had spent, I said it was about $6, and then he took my address. The next day, there were six Tasty Bucks in my mailbox. Amazing.

On Friday, I went to Tasty's for lunch in the middle of a busy day. The lady at the register is friendly and chatty, and when I handed her my business credit card, she and I began talking about business. It was a delight to talk to her.

Today, I made sure to go back. There was a teenaged guy at the register. He greeted me positively, even giddily. When I chuckled at his exuberance, he kept it right up, and appeared to have a wonderful time serving me. Tomorrow I'm stuck having lunch in Salt Lake, but you could put pretty good odds on my ending up at Tasty's on Wednesday.

Here's the bad news. Tasty's may be on hard times. I don't know this for sure, but I do keep my eyes open.
  • They closed a store near Weber State University recently. I was sad to see it go, but I did go there often, and I never saw the place full. The Layton store frequently fills up.
  • They've pulled gelato from the stores. I never once saw anyone order some. I'm not sure if this is belt-tightening or just pulling the plug on an idea that didn't fly.
  • Their web site is completely offline. You can pull Google caches of parts of it, but they let their domain name expire in October of 2005.
But this is interesting. Again, I know nothing, I'm on the outside. I've just noticed the above and I'm connecting dots. Maybe correctly, maybe not.

What's interesting about it is what it means if they are in trouble. Tasty's has not made me suffer for their hardships. If I were any other customer, I probably wouldn't have noticed the three points above, and would leave the store with my meal thinking nothing is unusual at all.

Tasty's is obeying the first rule (Don't punish customers for internal problems). Subway did not. Tasty's costs a little more. I don't care.


Now. That was a really great review, especially from me. I lean critical in my musings, and I'm very picky. Having said that, I'm going to offer advice to Tasty's.
  • Re-open your web page. What I saw in the Google cache was creative and cheerful. Well done, but now it's gone. To folks like me, your web page is your front door. Give me a place to link when I say nice things about you.
  • Don't change a thing with your staff hiring and training. They're great. Especially the older lady at the Layton store. She's courteous and clever.
  • Consider adding free Wi-Fi hotspots to your stores. When I was a student at WSU Davis campus, I'd frequently stop in for a meal and leave. If you had free Wi-Fi, I'd have stayed and eaten more (and left more cash in your register).
  • Give me options for a healthier 6" bundle. Drop the donut, make my soda a bottle of water, and replace my fries with something that won't harden my arteries.
  • Get a little more creative with the sandwiches and breads. Can you make a bread with cheese baked onto it like Subway? Can you offer me a sandwich with cream cheese like Einstein's? Can you do something entirely original and surprise me?
Tasty's is doing a lot of things right, which is why I've been so nice here. I'm excited about making the Rules Of Customer Interaction a regular thing, but at the same time, "Be cheerful and have a good product," is just far too obvious. If you need that rule enumerated, then you probably don't need the rest of them anyway.

So I'm writing this episode's ROCI in the hope that Tasty's will follow it and sell like crazy, and take the bigger guys' customer bases right out from under them. Here it is:

Jake's Second Rule Of Customer Interaction:

A customer talking about you is an opportunity for dialog, brand growth, company refinement, and bottom line enhancement. Don't let such opportunities slide by. Gather people who are good at exploiting opportunities, and find a way to turn it to your benefit.

The added benefit of this rule is that it turns ground already covered into a rule. Now I can sleep at night.


Today I ended up at Tasty's for lunch, as predicted. The giddy teen mentioned above was at the register again, and it turns out his name is Lane. Welcome to the blogosphere, Lane. And the older lady there mentioned above is Teresa, according to Lane.

I handed him a card with a TinyURL address on the back that points here, and told him that I'd written about the store on my website. He offered me a free donut. DO YOU SEE WHY I LOVE THIS PLACE? He actually gave me two free ones. Thanks, Lane!

I wanted to clarify one more thing: I sincerely hope, and would readily believe, that Tasty's is just fine financially. Since I wrote this post, I've heard unflattering things about the franchisee that ran the Harrison Tasty's, and they seem to make sense. The gelato thing was probably just a good business decision. The closed website is the big question mark for me. I hope that if we hear from someone high in the Tasty's hierarchy, they'll have something to say about that one.



Eric said...

My last Tasty's experience was six months ago. I went into their Kaysville store and waited for a chance to order. There was no one working the front register, and after several minutes of watching people milling around the back (they were busy making sandwiches and not just loafing), I left for more attentive pastures.

That's really my only bad experience with Tasty's in recent times. A while back I had noticed that they had a rather paltry selection of donuts, but that has very much improved (frosted donuts with sprinkles are not an option for donut vendors). Maybe I'll go back again, although the Layton store is the more likely option, since it's closer to work.

Jake said...

Wow, that's a pretty bad Tasty's experience! Did you tell them about it?

I remember when you first started working at the Base, we met for lunch at Tasty's in Layton a couple of times.

Crystal said...

I had a sample of gelato and I loved it, but I never ordered it because the prices and sizes available were never posted anywhere and I didn't know if I'd be able to afford it with everything else I was getting.