One of the things that we are often asked to do is to help organizations improve their customer service. We’ve developed several programs that I believe really work and customer service happens to be one of the most critical components of your brand experience. So, in this blog, you’re getting a sneak peak at a germ of an idea that I will continue to develop for an article, speaking engagement or workshop.
I admit it. I spend most of my lunch money with people who ignore and mistreat me.
The bar is set so low, that it’s inexcusable not to reach or exceed it. Most people have one or two places that they do business with because they receive exceptional customer service. However, the vast majority of us could tell you lists of places that we give our money to that we receive poor or inconsistent service because those places are convenient or there just aren’t any better options or finding those options would require more time and energy and we just don’t have either.
There’s this small deli in Tallahassee that makes great lunch size sandwiches and homemade soups with fresh ingredients. When I’m in town, I buy lunch at this establishment at least once (sometimes 2-3 times) a week. The average meal costs me $8-9 and if you add this up over a month or a year, there’s probably not another place that I consistently spend this much lunch money at. So, say that I only visit one time each week – that’s 52 visits over the past year (and my obsession with this place goes back further).
I’m a social person. So, I’m the type that chats while they make my sandwich, smile at people I make eye contact with and say thanks before I walk out the door. Every time I have been in this deli, the owner/manager has been present and not one time has she smiled my way, acknowledged my loyalty or even thanked me for my business. I began to wonder if I had mistakenly walked out the door without paying or something. Over the past few months, I’ve bumped into two other business colleagues/friends at this deli. They shared that they felt the same way … liked they’d done something wrong.
“I hate my job” … my newest, latest customer service pet peeve (there are many).
Each day I encounter this response in some form or fashion and I’m sick and tired of it. I’ve done some preliminary primary research and my guestimate is that this customer service nightmare happens at 100% of retail establishments and at some it happens 4 out of 5 times. And, it’s continued even in the midst of a recession when keeping loyal customers is more important than ever before. Here’s the scenario:
I leave work after a long day. I drive towards home and pass two competitive grocery stores on my way to the store that is closest to home and where I know where everything is. We’re having guests for dinner, so I’ve got to be quick. I spend 30-45 minutes loading up a cart with everything I need. The bill is sure to be over $200. I choose a register line that is relatively short and I wait for my turn. As I’m waiting, I realize that this has the potential to fit the profile of my newest, latest customer service pet peeve.
The cashier and bagger are chatting and seem to be oblivious to the fact that real live humans in front of them put the groceries on the belt and these real live humans are going to spend real hard earned money to buy products and all of this is somehow related to a paycheck they take home.
As I watch two customers go through the line without any acknowledgement other than “paper or plastic?” I take three deep breaths and repeat to myself, “do not take on other people’s problems as your own” (thank you self help books). Then it’s my turn. So, I decide that I’m going to break this cycle. I’m going to speak to them (gasp!).
Me (out loud): “Hi. How are you doing today?
Cashier (out loud): “You’re asking me? I hate this job. My manager isn’t letting me go on break until I finish ringing you up. Like, I was ready, like, an hour ago.”
Bagger (out loud): “Same here. I’ve got friends in town and I’d rather be anywhere but here right now.”
Me (to myself): Jeez … what did I expect? The ads and banners promised a delightful experience … where did I go wrong? I should readjust my expectations. Maybe in this new society it is an honor to pay several hundred dollars to hear workers complain.
Cashier (out loud): “Hey. You need to press that green button. Cash back?”
Me (out loud on a reserved day): “Oh sorry. No cash back. Well I hope your day gets better. Thanks!” (ever wonder why customers seem to be saying thank you more often than the people who are taking our money?)
Me (out loud on a day that I just can’t help being a consultant): “Look. You didn’t acknowledge the two people in line before me. I had to speak to you first. Your job is to help make my experience a positive one. Hearing how much you don’t like your job or would like to be out of here is not really helping me have a good experience. Do you understand what I’m saying or do I need to speak with your manager? Now, what I’d like for you to do is go on your break and think this over. When you get back out here, try to provide better service to the customers who come through your line.”
Whew … that felt good … or did it? It kind of felt like work.
I’m sick and tired of being treated this way and I’m not going to take it anymore … until the next time!
Who do you spend money with that doesn’t meet your customer service expectations and why? How do you handle these nightmare customer service situations? Inquiring minds want to know.
><(("> Melissa Laughon
Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit www.catchyourlimit.com.