Lessons learned from Subway

By | August 31, 2007

I happened to be in Cannon street Subway (sandwich restaurant, if you can call it a restaurant) the other day and due to the fact that I was absolutely ravaging hungry I ordered myself a sandwich with so much filling that it would give most people lock-jaw just from trying to fit it in their mouth – foot long roast beef on hearty Italian with extra cheese and bacon, toasted and with all the fillings, topped off with south west sauce!  As you can imagine, I was really looking forward to it!

I’ve always been impressed with how efficient they are in preparing and delivering their sandwiches – one guy for the bread, another for the meat and cheese, another for the oven, another for the salad, another for the sauce and another to wrap it.  And it was all going so well until the wrapping part.  Now to be fair, I think the girl wrapping it was probably new, but either way she made an absolute hash of it.  As she attempted to fold and cut it, the majority of the filling spilled all over the counter.  She then made the most pathetic attempt to wrap it.  Well that was it, sandwich ruined!  It ended up being one of the messiest lunches Ive eaten, requiring the use of enough tissues to account for a small rainforest.  And were I not such a die hard fan of Subway I probably wouldn’t have gone back the next day (which of course I did).

At the same time I happened to be working at a site dealing with a mess caused by human error – like my sandwich.  The kit itself was great, the solution was well designed ………. but because of some sloppy workmanship (actually mistakes that any of us could have made) the customer was in a real pickle.  The customers sandwich was effectively all over the counter and not looking too appetising.

Fortunately, with the help of some very dedicated people, including the guy who made the initial mistakes, we were able to sort out the mess and leave the customer relatively happy.

The thing is, like me with my sandwich, if the customer had been a new customer with no previous good experiences with the kit, they may well have started taking their lunch elsewhere.

So what I learned from my subway experience is that no matter how good your kit is, you still need the right people – pre-sales, architects, professional services, support, engineers, account managers……  It’s one thing having great kit, but if you cant assemble it properly so that it looks like it does on the posters, and if you keep it operating smoothly, or fix it when it goes wrong then a lot of people will shop elsewhere.

In fact, I happened to be in the same subway restaurant a week or two later dealing with an issue late on a Friday evening.  I made it to the restaurant a minute or two before closing up and was obviously going to be their last customer of the day.  But that didn’t stop them getting opening a brand new pack of lettuce just for me.  This left a lasting impression on me!

With this in mind, I often hear account managers and the likes saying that Customer X think they are a lot bigger than they are and expect to get the same treatment as Customer Y who are huge in comparison.  Well I was only buying for myself that Friday night at Subway, certainly not worth opening a new bag of lettuce for.  But because they were so wiling to open it for me I will certainly be back for more, and recommending them to people working in the area.


5 thoughts on “Lessons learned from Subway

  1. Chris M Evans

    Nigel, next time you’re in the Cannon Street area, let me know as I’m working close to there at the moment..

  2. Stephen2615

    I personally have never tried Subway which I suppose it very odd indeed considering the world we live in.  Mind you I have not had KFC in over 20 years either and I rarely visit Macca’s either because I don’t like sugary bread but I do like the pickles. 
    I also have had the displeasure of using a number of professional services and to be quite honest, most of them have left a very unpleasant taste in my mouth.  I won’t name them for professional reasons but it is very rare that I get what I want or expect first time around.
    Let me break the following down for you:
    pre-sales — can be very condescending and tries very hard to sell you the equipment you least want.
    architects —  What’s that, no seriously, what makes them architects?  About 5 years ago, a large telco offered me a solutions architectural role which surprised me as I did not even know the job and neither did they.
    professional services — lets charge huge amounts mostly for project management but do nothing of value quickly so we can change for more project management.  Let’s also make sure there is no training available for at least 6 months.  At least learn how to use MS project.  Nothing looks worse than looking at poorly created projects that could have been done better using some sort of spreadsheet.
    support engineers — ok, I have had positive experiences there because I was one.
    account managers — ca ching. ($$$$)
    In 18 years of IT systems management, I have never seen anything go to plan especially with multiple vendors working together.  It’s always some one else’s fault.
    Support engineers especially customer facing ones is a very thankless job.  If they did badly, there would be no huge sales commission the next time the customers wanted something.  Oddly enough, they rarely get the same money as the sales droid or pre sales idiot who still tries to sell you the wrong kit.
    Much the same as “Do you want fries with that?


  3. Nigel Poulton

    Ah, Subway is an entirely different beast to Micky D's – you wouldn't find me in a McDonalds!  KFC I quite like though.

    Re the pre-sales comment about selling you stuff that you dont want, I know that some companies are starting to feel the effects of this mis-selling from their customers.  Customers are getting sick of what they are calling "shelfware" – stuff they are sold that they never use and it basically sits on the shelf.  In the long run this doesnt help your relationship with your customers when you sell them junk.

    And what is junk?  Basically anything that they dont need or want.  Extra bacon  is right up my street, but is no good to a vegitarian or even someone who doesnt want it.  Quite why anyone wouldnt want extra bacon is beyond me though!

    Mmmmmm extra bacon  😀

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