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A baker’s dozen, a little something extra…  

Bakers DozenWhen you buy a dozen cookies, donuts, cinnamon rolls or other treats, bakery sales clerks will frequently add a 13th item—a little additional value, a “baked goods” thank you for your patronage.  Today I heard a radio advertisement extolling this practice and it prompted me to think about the values my parents taught. 

When I graduated from washing pots and pans to the role of sales clerk in my parents retail bakery, my mother and father made it abundantly clear that customer satisfaction—the quality of the products we made and the service we delivered—was intrinsically linked with the car I drove, the clothes I wore, the house I lived in, the food I ate.  Everything that I had or enjoyed was inseparable from how our customers felt about what we did and how we did it.  That I must never let a customer walk out the door without being certain that they were satisfied with their experience and their purchase.  That I never, ever, took the customer’s feelings for granted. 

When I waited on customers, I almost always added that 13th item, I just didn’t say anything.  I always thought of that as the additional surprise, just a little more satisfaction, when the customer discovered the extra treat. 

This baker’s dozen concept is not a game changing strategy but I believe it is a practice that leaders should put front and center in their daily lives—in their relationship with family, customers and employees—by doing something a little extra, by offering heartfelt words of praise or encouragement, a handwritten note in an employee’s birthday card, the special delivery of service quality that exceeds a customer’s expectations.

I had great parents who lived these values.  They taught me that going the extra mile was usually such a simple thing to do that there was rarely a reason not to do it.

In an industry beset with financial challenges, troubling quality, and failures in safety and increasing competition, the baker’s dozen can make an important difference.