Has customer service just laid down and died? Has it gone the way of Kodak, Polaroid and Twinkies? I catch a glimpse of it now and then, but it seems that more and more the experiences I have out in the world are lacking in customer service.
Maybe my standards are a bit high. I was trained by Disney and groomed under their umbrella for 15 years. And this was back when Disney believed in customer service, because recent visits to their parks indicate it may be sliding there as well.
I was taught that the customer’s experience was paramount. Go above and beyond to satisfy the customer, and they’ll come back, and they’ll send their friends! When I worked at the Grand Floridian Front Desk, we were told GRAND meant Guest Requests Are Never Denied. Disney taught castmembers to never say “No” or “I don’t know”. Instead, suggest an alternative or offer to find an answer. And if the guest is unhappy, do everything in your power to 1) Listen so they feel heard 2)Acknowledge if appropriate 3)Find a resolution.
Are those concepts so hard to teach that they no longer matter? Are businesses so secure in our spending that they no longer care? Are we so complacent in our acceptance of sub-par service that we just go along with it?
Trixie and I recently went to a local fondue restaurant for our annual celebration of her birthday/visit. Every year we get two burners–one for oil and one for broth. And then we have two chocolate options for dessert. So every year, we call ahead and reserve a two-burner table. This year, we arrived a few minutes early and actually got there before the doors opened. At 5:00pm on the dot, they let us in and led us straight to a one-burner table.
I politely asked the seating host if there were any two-burner tables available. He told us we didn’t need two burners since there were only three of us, and they had a lot of large parties coming in later in the evening that would need them. I explained that we have a tradition of getting the two burners each year and that we had called ahead to specifically reserve a two-burner table. He looked at me like I had just said we would be licking our chocolate off the floor. “Why?” he asked, complete with the scrunched eyebrows, tilt of the head, and nose wrinkled in disgust.
“Because it’s my birthday and that’s what we do every year,” Trixie offered.
I wasn’t as kind. “Because we are the customers and we are paying for the meal, and that’s what we want, and that’s what we called ahead of time and got here early to get.”
This was received with a blank stare and utter apathy. “Oh well. We don’t have any available so I guess you’ll just have to sit here.”
Really?!? Seriously?!? We are paying an arm and a leg to cook our own food one bite at a time in your restaurant, and we are willing to pay double for the extra food/burner, and that’s your response???
So the server arrived all cheerful and happy and asked how we were doing. I said we were a little disappointed that the one night a year we come to this restaurant was not going to turn out the way we had planned. I explained what had happened with the seating host, and I indicated the almost entirely empty restaurant with plenty of two-burner tables available.
I’ve been a seating hostess. I understand the complex jigsaw puzzle of a restaurant with different seating configurations and parties arriving at staggered times that need specific tables. I get it. But I also understand that we called ahead and made a reservation. We were buying an additional entree and additional dessert to compensate financially for the extra burner. And we came at opening to make it easier to accommodate us.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. It seems the server actually cared if we started off happy (I would like to think it was genuine customer service and not just gratuity-related) . She fetched a manager, who was more than happy to accommodate our request and moved us immediately to a two-burner table. Then he went above and beyond with a follow-up call a week later to apologize on behalf of the new owners, who wanted to send a gift card to make sure we knew they wanted us to return.
They got it! The customer is paying the bill. The customer comes back if they’re happy. The customer tells their friends. (or blogs about it!). And though our evening started a little rocky, we definitely had a great time and a great meal, and we felt heard by the server, and we felt like we were important to them with the follow-up call and offer.
But there are countless other mundane encounters that don’t end so well. And I get that some people say you shouldn’t expect good service if you aren’t in a high-end establishment, but it really shouldn’t matter. They all are being paid by the customer and depending on the customer for continued business.
Like the drink I was handed at the movie theater. (not a low-dollar business for sure with those prices, but not considered “high-end” in the service category). I ordered a Diet Coke. She handed me the drink with some red Hi-C punch-looking liquid all over the lid and straw.
“Yeah. I just spilled fruit punch all over the lid.”
Really??? And it didn’t occur to you to either fix a new drink, get a new lid, wipe off the punch from that lid, or at the very least, acknowledge and apologize???
Last night really irked me though. We had been out running errands and decided to drive through Wendy’s for a burger and a Frosty. The drive-thru is always like a trip to a foreign land. It amazes me that we have cell phones that allow us to speak to people on the other side of the planet, but we cannot understand each other from a car to the inside of a restaurant.
“Welcome to Wendy’s. How can I help you?”
“Hold on a second.” I turn to get the other orders from the back seat and. . .
“Okay, you want a number five. What to drink with that?”
Hunh? What? I didn’t say anything about a number five.
“No, not a number five. I’ll just take two Jr. Cheeseburgers with no mustard.”
“They don’t come with mustard.” (Okay…then what’s the need to tell me that? I’m already getting what I asked for!)
So the painful order process continued, the money transaction took place, and we were waiting to receive our food.
He hands me TWO ketchups and about three napkins. We had three orders of fries and three people in the car.
“We really like ketchup. Can I get a couple more? And a few more napkins?”
You would have thought I had asked if he could come and wash my windshield and detail my car while we waited for the fries.
He handed me ONE more ketchup and about three more napkins.
After we drove away, we discovered that BOTH of the cheeseburgers had NO meat! None. I guess maybe if you don’t want mustard, you don’t get meat? How the heck do you make a burger in a fast food restaurant and forget to put on the burger part? On two sandwiches?
So we drove ALL the way back and pulled up to the window.
“Hi. These burgers have no meat.”
“No meat?” He looked a bit confused, but not at all horrified that his customer had just received two incorrect orders with no meat. “You want me to switch them out?”
Duh!!! Ya think??? That would be nice!!!!! Never apologized. Never a word of any type of acknowledgement or “sorry about that.” Nothing. He just handed us two new sandwiches.
Gives a whole new meaning to their famous slogan, “Where’s the Beef?”