“Take me to the cauliflower” – a customer service parable

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ramsac has a specific approach to customer service and our fundamental focus is on always making IT simple for our customers. “Take me to the cauliflower” has become a phrase that both embodies what we do, and also allows anyone to challenge another colleague if they think they could be doing more. In this video Robert May, managing director at ramsac explains the concept of “Take me to the cauliflower” at the canalys channel forum in Venice.

Full transcript below

We are a channel reseller in the UK and over the last 18 months we have doubled in size. I think one of the challenges for us as business owners, when you are going through that growth is, it’s not just the technology, it’s the people as well. We have a fundamental promise to our clients, our strapline, which is making IT simple, and all through the induction of our people, we say whatever you do, the sanity check is ‘has what I have just done, made IT simple for the client?’ We talk about this and measure it in people’s development plans. But still people are people and they don’t always deliver on that.

Twice a year we get the whole business together to discuss the ‘state of the nation’ and I was preparing for the town hall type speech, and I heard two examples of people talking to clients and what they were saying was technically brilliant and really clever, but it wasn’t making IT simple. So I thought I need to address this so I will talk about it at the meeting, so I decided to come up with an analogy.

I said Imagine you are going shopping and you go into a store you have never been before. Imagine you go into the food hall of Harrods and you need to buy a bottle of wine. You go to the wine section, you take your time and you choose your wine. You are just about to leave and all of a sudden you remember you need to buy a cauliflower, so you turn around and see a member of staff and say “excuse me can you please tell me where the cauliflowers are?” Now if you were in Harrods what happens at this point is you are suddenly surrounded by staff who pick you up and they carry you to the fruit and vegetables and someone will see the wine that you have picked out and they will say “actually sir that wine will go really well with this variety of cauliflower”. So you take your cauliflower and they say “is there anything else you want?” and you say “no that’s everything” and they pick you up again and take you to the checkout and you pay, and off you go, and have a very nice day.

If you are in a less exclusive supermarket, let’s say somewhere like Carre Four, you have chosen your wine and you turn around and there is someone who works there and you say “excuse me, please could you tell me where the cauliflowers are?” They walk you to the end of the aisle and they point over there and they say 3rd aisle on the right, that’s where you will find the fruit and veg, have a nice day.

Now imagine you are in a budget supermarket, like a Lidl for example, I don’t know I have never been! You turn around and you say “excuse me, please can you tell me where the cauliflowers are?” And the shopkeeper looks at you, grunts and walks away. The point is and the point of my story is you as the customer have asked the same question in every single store, but the reactions that you have got and the service you have got is all down to the culture. The message I delivered is that in ramsac what we have got to do, is we have to make sure that whenever a customer asks us a question, metaphorically we take them to the cauliflower, we pick them up and we take them there.

I thought that was going to be the end of it – message delivered. What actually happened is its continued and every day I hear people talking about taking me to the cauliflower. One of the things it has done is, it’s a really non-confrontational way if you ask a team member to do something or for some information and they give you the answer it is an easy way to say thanks but that doesn’t really take me to the cauliflower. The other thing is lots of people talk about it in terms of service they get elsewhere and they talk about going to a shop on the weekend and they really didn’t take me to the cauliflower. So I have two messages for you, one is the power of storytelling and the power of getting that message over to your staff by giving them something they can really feel and the other is when it comes to your customers I urge you to always take them to the cauliflower.

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