Truer words were never said by family friend Bob Farrell, who died late last week. Mr. Farrell owned a string of ice cream parlors in the Northwest beginning in the ’70s. My mom and a friend were two of his first customers who quickly became friends with the jolly, funny and caring owner. He made sure we had our pickles each time we ate there. And we ate there often.

The “pickle story” relates to a customer who was angry one day because his waitress charged him $.05 for an extra pickle after he gotten the extra one free for some time. Farrell famously told the story often to his employees, but also made it his career by talking with other companies about the importance of customer service. It’s more important to give them the pickle than to make the $.05. Farrell also believed he was selling entertainment, and the ice cream (and pickles) were extra.

As public relations professionals, we need to focus on customer experience and not the pickle. If we see or hear issues from consumers, it’s our responsibility to make sure things are fixed. We must clearly communicate about the changes needed once we address the issues.

Mr. Farrell’s pickle story addresses external buyers, but the same can be true for employees (who are technically customers after all). Often small internal issues become larger ones because managers are so focused on the bottom line. Making sure employees are given the pickle is a wonderful way to keep them happy.

Corporate structures need to encourage inter-departmental communication so we can work together to solve individual issues before they become bigger complaints.

Anyone for a pickle?