Locating – My Pleasure

As a guy who has been locating for the better part of 25 years, I’ve developed a few opinions about fast food restaurants; they in turn have develop an opinion about me. Turns out I’m what fast-food companies call a “heavy user.” According to Newsweek, that is one of the “20% of fast-food eaters who account for 60% of fast-food sales.” The average heavy user is a single man in his 20s or 30s who eats fast food at least 20 times a month.

Now show me a white truck with a beacon on top, a logo on the door, and a case of spray paint in the bed, and I’ll bet you a hundred bucks there are ketchup packets and paper napkins in the glove box. The locating industry is full of heavy users.

For my part, I appreciate the reliability of McDonalds. The food isn’t good, but it isn’t bad either. They are always open and never too far away. The employees at the drive-thru see you as just another open car window in an endless line of open car windows. Donate your change. Don’t donate your change. Just keep it moving.

Then there’s Burger King. Mostly owing to occasional cravings for their original chicken sandwich and its oddball oblong patty, I keep giving them chances even though the drive-thru experience usually involves handmade signs, a filthy parking lot, and employees who seem just as surprised as I am that I keep showing up.

Finally, there’s Chick-fil-A, where the crowded lunchtime drive-thru is a two-lane customer service ballet, with smiling iPad-toting brand ambassadors in crossing guard vests greeting you by name under climatecontrolled awnings, where every customer request is greeted with a chipper, “my pleasure!” Chick-fil-A makes me feel like a welcome guest. I find myself believing they really are happy to see me and take genuine pride in making sure I enjoy my lunch. I couldn’t be mad at them even if they mess up my order (which, of course, they never do).

And that brings us back to locating. Locating as an industry has been largely commodified. Our product offering is pretty much the same from company to company. Our contracts are based on impersonal performance parameters of safety, accuracy, and on-time completion – meet the standard or lose the work.

In this environment, it is easy to aim for McDonalds and set a goal of consistent, reliable performance. It makes sense. McDonald’s was the world’s largest fast-food brand last year, bringing in almost four times as much revenue as Burger King, and beating Chick-fil-A by nearly that same margin.

Hidden in those numbers though is something interesting. Chickfil- A was the leader in sales by unit, with each of its locations bringing in about a third more revenue than the McDonalds next door. So, all that customer service must be worth something. As for me, I’ve introduced a new phrase when dealing with my customers, “my pleasure!” And you know what? I can’t help smiling as I say it. It just feels good.

Christopher Koch is a training consultant and President of ZoneOne Locating. He is past president of Nulca and worked on both the 2009 and 2015 revisions to the Nulca Professional Competency Standard. He can be reached by email at Christopherkoch@live.com or on Twitter @kochauthor.


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