Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is Good Customer Service So Hard To Achieve?

It must be, or I wouldn't encounter so my problems.

Tomorrow is my son's 13th birthday. I decided on something low-key this year; we're going to have the family meet at a pizza joint tonight. Rather than calling, I went to the restaurant myself yesterday, told them I would have at least 12 people there at 6 tonight, and I wanted one pepperoni pizza ready at 6 so people would have something to eat as soon as they got there. There's nothing worse than waiting for pizza. Anyway, all this was dutifully recorded in a scheduling book as I stood there, and then I left.

I don't know why something was eating at me. Maybe it was my army training; it was my first commander who taught me never to do over the phone what you can do in person, and in the army we're taught to always follow up. I decided to call a few minutes ago.

Nope, no preparations were underway. I was speaking to a manager, apparently, and after we squared everything away I asked, "This wasn't going to happen if I hadn't called, was it?"

Now see, here's the thing. The appropriate answer to that question is, "No, it wasn't, and I'm very sorry about that. I'll work to ensure that doesn't happen again." Instead I got, "No, because the other manager didn't tell me about it."

Do you see the difference between the two answers? In the first one, the person would take responsibility (whether or not it was his fault, as manager it was his responsibility) and try to prevent such a mistake in the future. The second answer, while honest, only tells me that he has lousy communication with the other manager(s) and that he doesn't even read the calendar to see if something's scheduled on his shift--in other words, he's not taking responsibility for something that is his responsibility. And that just frosts me to no end.

I have a friend who often comes over late on Saturday nights to watch movies. He usually stops at Safeway or Taco Bell on his way here. Safeway always has a long line and only one cashier--can no manager figure out that needs to be fixed? Can't a manager hold down a register for a few minutes? And Taco Bell gets his order wrong almost every week. Sometimes it's to our advantage, sometimes not, but still. How tough is it to get the right number of tacos and some cinnamon twisty things into a bag?

My son's birthday party a few years ago was at a kid-oriented pizza place (no, not Chuck E Cheese) and was screwed up so badly that the manager refunded a significant part of my money. And this was at a place that specialized in parties.

I've worked in small business before. One thing I was always told--never make excuses to the customer. They don't want to hear it. They just want their problem resolved. And I've learned that that's absolutely true.

Later: just got back. Everything went smoothly and the pizza was great. I ate so much I feel like Jabba the Hut.


Anonymous said...

My personal favorite? The local Wendy's that regularly messes up my order for a double cheeseburger, lettuce only.

The last time I ever went there, I asked how it was they mess up the order every time. His response? "We've messed up orders much bigger than that!" When I suggested that indicated a serious problem with the competence of the restaurant staff, he became indignant, threw my money at me, and threatened to call the police if i dared set foot in the restaurant ever again after insulting his employees. Don't worry -- I won't.

Darin K. said...

The reason Safeway only has one line late on Saturdays is, I'd guess, because nothing else is open and everyone else there is so desperate for what they have that they'd wait for an hour to get it. They think that there's no reason to cater to anyone if they're the only game in town at that moment.

Darren said...

Jamba Juice always screws up my orders, too. Always.

If you can't handle subbing an item in my smoothie, don't give me the option of subbing an item in my smoothie.

PeggyU said...

I have a story from the other side. I just finished talking to my very bummed out daughter who works at a PetsMart in Sacramento. Tonight, at a customer's request, she removed a chameleon from its enclosure so he could get a better look at it. He grabbed it from her (they wrestled over it for a moment, but she let go fearing the lizard would be injured). She and some other employees chased after him, but he was too fast for them to catch. They did not get a license plate number, as he ran behind the store and disappeared.

From her description it was a large and beautiful chameleon (and worth a chunk of change). If any of you live in the Sacramento area, could you please keep an eye on the classifieds for a chameleon for sale? I am going to check Craig's list every day, but it would help if there were others to keep an eye out as well, especially if you take local newspapers.

Chameleons require special care, so she is very worried for the animal. Thanks for your help!

Anonymous said...

I hired Mr. Roof of Ann Arbor, MI, recently to install a roof, and their workmanship (it looked like illegals, BTW) left a lot to be desired. When I called to complain, they jumped all over me. They were rude as all get out, and I would warn anyone to NEVER hire them under any circumstances.


Darren said...

Outside of the alt-weekly this is a one-newspaper-town:

MiaZagora said...

It seems that since there's an actual scheduling book, when another manager comes in he/she should make it a habit to check the schedule to see what's going on that night. That's what I would do, anyway. Then again, maybe they still get paid whether or not they're incompetent. But I'll bet you're not the first complaint they've had, and I sure would get tired of listening to people gripe and complain all the time.

David said...

I have a customer-service-related post here: mindless verbal Taylorism.

Ellen K said...

It's a two way street. Through college all my kids have worked fastfood or retail jobs. One is now a fastfood manager and another is a retail manager, the third is a teacher in a dance facility. So all of them deal regularly with customer service. There are places out there that have abysmal service. My local Wendy's is owned by a man from Mexico who only hired Hispanics. I got this news from one of my students when I complained about the place and she works there. She said none of the kitchen staff speaks English and she's not really sure they speak Spanish either. So the orders are always wrong. I just stopped going there. It's called voting with your wallet. But on the other side, my son, who is a really conscientious kid, was very upset when some woman cussed him up for fifteen minutes because they forgot to put a package of barbecue sauce in with her chicken nuggets. My daughter had an incident where while conducting a birthday party, the mother added kids then cussed a blue streak in front of kids and parents when told that the cost was per child. We are pretty sure she keyed my daughter's car on her way out. My youngest son is a manager at a well known national chain of skateboard shops and his problem has been with the new hires. Quite often they show up for a week and then never show up again. I guess that some kids don't need the money or something, but it leave the store understaffed and that causes problems as well. Customer service has become a dwindling commodity, but so has customer responsibility. I have seen people try to return items they have worn, items not from the store to which they return it and people who deliberately complain in order to get discounts in restaurants. I am sorry that this was such a mess. I've seen that happen too. But as a society we have become people trying to get things for free, including work and products. And when you are always looking for the cheapest deal or the cheapest employees, you get what you pay for.

PeggyU said...

That's good to know. Thanks Darren! Going on a lizard hunt ...

KauaiMark said...

"...Taco Bell gets his order wrong almost every week"

It must be something about Taco Bell's processes as I've NEVER gotten what I've ordered there.

I avoid the place unless forced to go by my daughter.

maxutils said...

I agree; the customer is always right, even when they are wrong. An apology is a victory: the customer returns.

Are you reading this, Ramada Inn Time share whoring assholes?

Eric W. said...

We've always had problems with our local Taco Bell, too. Perhaps it's just because there are so many different items, and people tend to order many different ones, as opposed to a McDonalds where the only big variations are what's between the buns.

That said, I have a customer service/worker bee/food gathering job. It's not a very hard job (we have much less variety than a fast food restaurant), but when you're dealing with a hundred people ordering some combination of the same 15 items or so, everything sort of blends together and it's easy to forget exactly what that customer ordered, since it's usually only a little bit different from what the last person ordered. If I make a mistake, I apologize, try to fix it, and then apologize again when the customer is leaving. Seems to work alright.