Who would’ve guessed it…

The funny thing about customer service is that at some places you expect great customer service.  However, at other places you would absolutely expect that they had never even heard of the concept of customer service.  In fact, they don’t even look at those entering the doors as customers.  Quite possibly, when the door opens they are only reminded of more work.  “When is quitting time?” they say.  They watch the clock no later than an hour into their eight-hour shift.  This is how my next experience begins.

Last fall I went to the local governmental office of motor vehicles to renew my spouses registration on her vehicle.  You guessed it, the line was as long as this year’s new roller coaster at Cedar Point.  I mean crazy long.  IMG00273-20121116-1543The problem was, I didn’t have anyone to talk to, there were no drink stations, and nobody brought a beach ball to toss around.  If you have never went to the DMV, believe me, you will easily wait an hour to get a solution to your problem.  Today was no different for me.

There was however a great story to tell.  The gentleman that was in front of me was at least a little disabled.  He needed the assistance of a cane to walk.  I remember thinking to myself, he shouldn’t have to wait in this long line when he has trouble standing.

Oddly enough, just minutes after I had the thought.  One of the workers came from behind the counter straight over to the gentleman in front of me and took him directly to her window so he wouldn’t have to wait.

I was totally astonished.  I have never seen anything like that in any governmental office.  Usually, they would see a line and instead of working the line down, two or three of the windows close so the employees can go to lunch.  It almost seems like government employees could care less about taking care of customers.  However, in this instance, the employee took the initiative to help this man because he would experience major discomfort by standing in this long line.  She treated him in the manner that reasonable human beings should treat each other.  This was a great example of doing the right thing even though there were a number of people who would’ve been serviced before him in a first come first served model.  If this were my father or grandfather I would hope someone would have the common decency to give him the same service.  The greatest point of the whole experience was that I didn’t hear any of the others around me grumble one bit.  EXCELLENT!!!

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Table for Two? or maybe THREE!

I love date night.  The problem is, couples all over the world go on date night far to infrequently.

My last date night was totally impromptu.  My wife and I saw about a two hour window and we jumped at the opportunity.  We were riding in the car trying to decide where we would spend our date night.  Usually she picks.  If you want her to be happy, either you let her pick or you pick one of her favorites(note to the newly dating).  This time however, I picked the location.  She actually was excited to go to one of my old college hangouts.

Honestly, our date took us to a place where I have always received below average service.  When I was in college all I cared about was cheap food.  Customer service was definitely not #1 on my list of how to make dinner decisions.  That being said, this American grill has awesome wings and great salads.  I’ve been frequenting this place for 15+ years.  So we get in and seated fairly quickly.  The really cool thing is that we actually got seated by a hostess.  Back in the day you would have to brave the crowd on your own.  Finding some group of people that maybe had two extra seats and were so kind as to let you share the table.  So being seated by the hostess was very convenient and hassle free.  We ordered very quickly and got our food even quicker.

The food was delicious!  Our waitress came by regularly to check on us even.  This date night is going very well until………… A LIVE SPIDER!  In my celery.  Unbelievable!  As you could imagine, I was surprised to say the least.  Not to mention, I was more than halfway done eating the celery.  I love celery.  So I, very calmly, told my wife while I corralled the spider in the bowl.  She immediately got the attention of our waitress.  When she got over to the table I handed the bowl to her and explained there was a live spider in my bowl.  She really didn’t seem shocked or disgusted, which I thought was kind of strange.  She killed the spider (I could have done that); however, I wanted her to verify it was ALIVE!  Her first response was “Did you want me to replace the celery?”  That is a funny question to ask when a live spider walks out from under your food on your plate.  I told her that would not be necessary.  She apologized for the inconvenience and left the table.

Spider in my celery (not actual spider). My waitress saved me from getting bitten.

You would think that a manager would be notified of the situation and would then at least visit the table and give a formal apology.  If I managed a restaurant, I would want to know if something like this happened.  However, a manager never came to the table.  Our waitress came back with some fresh celery and assured me that she washed it herself.  I thanked her.  Knowing that the unexpected guest was not at all her fault, we left her a 15% tip for her service.

Now you tell me, should I have made a stink about the whole thing or did I handle it well?  I thought that I was very patient and handled it very well.  I just wish that employees were empowered to make the right decisions on their own; and if not, people in the service industry in general should want to ensure that issues are reported to management.  I don’t even know if a manager was made aware.  Maybe they were and just didn’t care.  I can’t believe that I just wrote that.  I have patronized this restuarant for years and will probably still give them my business.  Should I?

The Taste of Chicago………….. Eating good too!

If heaven was a buffet with only delicious gourmet food and huge portions along with colorful people serving, that heaven would be Chicago.

During my many visits to Chicago, I have learned to never eat at a restaurant or eatery that I could eat at home.  The reason is, there are so many great places to eat.  So if I eat something I could have eaten at home……. why eat at all.  I love to experience new foods.  My eating habits and adventurist nature in regards to food is definitely thanks to my parents.  If you are not trying new foods and tasting new cultures, you are missing the boat and need to free your mind.  Try it, you may like it.  However, if you don’t like it, jump off the boat and swim to shore.

Our first night in the “Windy City”, we went to a very well-known restaurant.  My wife and I absolutely love this eatery and stop here during every visit to Chicago.  This visit however was a bit less than  average.  First off, on the way to our booth I slipped on the tile floor three times because of the grease.  Second, our booth was extremely dirty.  I remarked to my wife that we could probably eat and be satisfied if we only ate the food from underneath our table.  The bright spot in our visit was the great customer service given by the server.  He was very attentive to our needs.  When we mentioned the smorgasbord under the booth, he very quickly summoned someone to clean it up.  He also made great suggestions on appetizers.  He was very professional.  There were 8 in our party and he remembered all of our orders even though we made it very difficult as we were tired from travel and very hungry.

The next days plan was to eat good at “The Taste”.  Therefore, we made no plans to eat at any specific eatery.  We made our way to Grant Park to stuff our gullet with the food goodness of some of the most tasty, exotic, and decadent cuisine Chicagoland offers.  But guess what?  It was raining.  So after we got off the train we ducked into a restaurant to get a small appetizer.  It was just about lunch time so the restaurant was packed.  We were seated quite quickly even though we had a large party.  We were given water and menus almost immediately.  Here comes the kicker.  We sat for about 30 minutes before our waitress came to the table.  By this time the rain was pretty much over and I was dining with among others 3 women.  They were for sure ready to eat and very upset at the wait.  Of course we gathered our party and left for “The Taste”.  Maybe next time they will get a second opportunity at a first impression.

Now “The Taste” will never disappoint.  If you have never been, just look for the roasted corn on the cob (delicious).  Also, you have to get some of the Chicago Style Pizza (upside down and unbelievable).  One of my new favorites is the monster size Churro (Spanish doughnut).  The Churro was so delicious, but probably 2000 calories alone.  Totally worth it!  While we were down there we also enjoyed some of the street performers.  Style Pro Crew, a few contortionists, and one memorable girl with multiple hula hoops.  On “The Taste” main stage Rapheal Saadiq opened up for Chaka Khan.  Cool show!  Overall, “The Taste of Chicago” didn’t disappoint.  Make your reservations now for next year.

On our last day, we went out for breakfast at a well-known nationwide breakfast restaurant.  I won’t divulge their name but a hint for you, they serve pancakes (horrible hint…LOL).  Once again 8 person party and a great server.  The bright spot was that we really didn’t wait that long.  As we were waiting a server from another section came over and started a conversation with the whole table.  She was great at engaging the whole table in the conversation.  We were all having this great conversation that it felt like no time before our food came out.  These servers are working for small tips because the price range really dictates the tip.  This is a lower end restaurant price wise.  This was actually the best service we received during our trip.  This goes to show, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

So the next time you are in Chicago, go all out and have some fun.  Remember to seek out restaurants that you have never eaten in because if you can get the same food at home, maybe you should have stayed home.

Hometown Heroes……. Definitely under appreciated: Three reasons why they deserve appreciation.

I recently had a weekend full of exceptional customer experiences.  The funny thing is, I was going about my mundane daily errands and was exposed to some extremely amazing experiences.

Experience #1

My wife and I had the pleasure of shopping together for the weekends meals.  I know what you’re thinking, the pleasure of shopping for the weekends meals, where’s the pleasure come from; keep in mind that we have five beautiful children and don’t get much opportunity to do anything alone.  Anyway back to my story.  We were both starving because it was after lunch and neither of us had anything to eat since breakfast.  Here is a little note to the reader.  Never, ever, ever go shopping for groceries on an empty stomach.  You will end up buying 10 gallons of cookies and cream ice cream and swear it is a necessity.  So my wife suggested that we go over to the deli first and share a small snack before starting to shop.  When we get over there, there is no one to help us.  Remember, we are both starving and short on patience.  Within a minute I was asking her if we should flag someone down.  We didn’t.  We probably waited another 30 seconds before we were helped.  The young man appeared from the back like a ghost.  Surprise!  The young man at the deli greeted us with a smile.  Some people can be very indecisive when they are hungry.  That’s us.  He offered us a sample of some of the food.  He gave us a piece of food and my wife said thanks we can share.  He then proceeded to say no problem you can both have your own sample.  I laughed and said I’m a grown man not a baby boy.  He agreed and thought if we were sharing I would need a sample.  He also suggested some other items that would compliment our choice.  In the end we were looking for a snack but from his amazing customer service he sold us on a meal and we ended up getting Ice Cream!  I was blown away.  This young man was probably less than 25 and treated us with respect and up-sold us like crazy.  This grocery store is a large regional chain in the mid-west and I have been shopping here for 20+ years.  I have never experienced such great salesmanship in any of the chains stores.  This young man should be commended by his superiors.

Experience dos( spanish for 2 )

I was totally caught off guard by this experience.  After the deli greatness, my wife and I stopped by our local thrift store to drop off some of our gently used items for donation.  We pulled up and I got out of the car to open the trunk and pull out the donations.  One of the employees came out with a smile and said “Hello sir, how are you today?”  I answered fine and proceeded to get the donations out.  By this time another employee came out.  He was also smiling and asked “How are you sir?”  At this point I’m thinking two things: 1. These guys are being very polite. and 2. Do I look old?

Keep in mind, we donate here all the time and I think this is the first time anyone called me sir.  We made some small talk while finishing the transaction.  The second gentleman gave me a receipt and thanked me for his employment.  WOW!  I never thought by donating my unused clothing and furniture that I was helping create employment for someone.  I then thanked him for opening my eyes and that his enthusiasm would be the reason I would only donate with them in the future.

Experience trois( french! I’m trilingual )

20 years ago who would have thought you could make money selling air.

This is the one I will never forget.  I was on my way to meet someone and remembered that my wife said that my tire was low and needed air.  If you don’t already know, there is almost nowhere you can get air for your tire without paying.  So I stop at one of my local filling stations to get some vended air.  Problem:  I don’t have any cash.  These vending machines only take quarters.  So I figured I would buy a bottled water and get some cash back from my debit card.  Problem compounded:  This station doesn’t give cash back.  I was totally ready to leave and go to the ATM or chance it and go home.  The manager on duty Blair Sobeleskey overheard the dilemma and went into her own pocket and gave me four quarters.  Unbelievable!  This woman who only knows me as a regular customer, went to an unbelievable extent to take care of me.  She said she would feel bad if she heard that because of my nearly flat tire I was involved in an accident and got hurt.

Just goes to show.  There are people out there who care about others because it is the right thing to do.  Many thanks to Blair Sobeleskey.  You are appreciated.  If I misspelled your name I apologize.

The Taste of Chicago……….sleep so good.

I love Chicago.  Everything about this metropolis is totally inviting.  Recently I along with some of my closest friends took on Chicago during the famous “Taste”.  There are a few important choices to make if you are vacationing in Chicago.  Choice number 1: Which of the many magnificent hotels you will lodge.  Choice number 2: Of the many amazing restaurants, which few are a must to visit.  Choice number 3: Too many historic locations to visit.

Now the really cool thing about Chicago is that of these three choices, you can almost throw a dart and be guaranteed a great trip.  When planning my trip I did not however throw that dart.  As I have spent countless long weekends in the Windy City, I was a little more deliberate in my selection.  I decided to bed in the west suburban city of Rosemont.  The plan was to take the Blue line from Rosemont into the city daily.  Normally we bed in downtown at one of the four or five-star hotels(I’m not rich just a smart consumer).  Now these hotels have location hands down.  You can access all the major museums, all the pro sports venues, too many restaurants to name, and the nightlife is amazing.  Some of the challenges are parking is sky-high(all big cities follow suite), the wait for any of the eateries is 1 hour or more, and it usually takes forever to check in to your hotel.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CHICAGO.  I know when I go downtown to eat I’m going to wait for an hour at least before I sit down.  For me, the challenges are part of the adventure.  Knowing this, if you’ve never been to a monster sized city you will be faced with these challenges.

“Buckingham Fountain” in Grant Park downtown Chicago Illinois

Anyway, we bedded in Rosemont.  The hotel/resort we stayed in was a very nice hotel/resort.  We were greeted with a warm formal introduction by the concierge.  He welcomed us to his hotel/resort and asked if we needed help with our luggage.  I proceeded to check in while the rest of the group helped with the luggage.  When I go to check in I was greeted with a smile and was made to feel comfortable.  During the check in process, I was engaged with small talk and was asked what was on our agenda for our weekend.  I mentioned that I was starving and then was offered a paper menu from the restaurant in the lobby and was also given a list of some of the local eateries.  I love local eateries in the Chicago area.  As the check in process was coming to an end I asked for a complimentary upgraded room(be careful what you ask for, you may just get it).  The CSR informed me that the hotel/resort was completely booked for the weekend; however, she could put me in a corner suite with more square footage and a better view.  Of course I accepted and thanked her.

Our suite was very spacious.  It had a sitting area with a love seat, a coffee table, a desk, and a magnificent view.  Also it was at the end of the hall.  Quiet and very secluded.  We stayed for two nights.  For breakfast we had a good amount of choice.  We could have a nice breakfast in bed, we could have a five-star breakfast experience in the restaurant, or we could get bagels and cream cheese in the cafe.  We chose the cafe as we were saving room for the “Taste”.  One of the surprises was that there was a casino in Rosemont in walking distance from our hotel.  And even cooler, there was a free shuttle bus from the train station.  We went to the casino for entertainment but I didn’t win any money.  I never do.  The casino always wins.  Don’t go to casino’s to make money.  Go to casino’s for the entertainment.  Back to my hotel/resort.  As we went to check out the CSR asked how our stay was and I informed her that we had a great time and would definitely bed there again.  We checked out and headed to the van to shove off.  However, we never paid for parking.  So I rolled back to the desk to pay for parking so we could be on our way.  When I arrived at the front desk and told the CSR that we needed to pay for parking she took my ticket validated it and told me it was on the house.  I was blown away.  She basically saved us in excess of $75 for parking. AMAZING!

Overall my stay was great.  I didn’t come across one issue until I arrived home.  The issue didn’t have a thing to do with the hotel/resort.  It was my fault totally.  As I was unpacking, I realized I had left my toiletries in the hotel room.  I was kicking myself, kicking myself, kicking myself.  I left my crazy expensive toothbrush, some of my favorite cologne, and my grooming kit.  I was totally bummed that I forgot my toiletries.  I couldn’t let it go.  I had to get my belongings.  On Tuesday morning I called the hotel and informed them of my belongings being left in the room.  They tracked down my things and told me they would send them to the shipping department.  I would be called to verify my address and shipping preferences.  Now I was feeling good that I would eventually get my things.  However, I never got a call.  Wednesday came and went no call.  I was being very patient because this situation was totally my fault.  On Thursday lo and behold my package arrives.  Unbelievable!  Due to my absent-mindedness I left some belongings in my hotel room, and in less than a week I had them back in my possessions on the hotels dime.  This customer service was far above and extremely beyond normal.  Just to put it into perspective, during one of my many trips to Vegas I was gifted $1000+ worth of gifts from vendors.  These gifts were stolen from my room by the housekeeping staff.  I did get a tour of the back house of one of the more famous casinos; however, I never recovered my gifts.  But my Rosemont hotel/resort made me whole in less than a week.

My hat is off to the folks at the Westin O’hare in Rosemont, Illinois.  You made my stay a very memorable one.  I will definitely be back.

The Taste of Chicago……….tastes so good!(#1 in series)

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time in one of the best cities in the world.  CHICAGO!  My Mother, Stepfather, and Sister lived in a suburb of Chicago for years and I have spent plenty of time there.  Also my sister did her undergrad at Northwestern.  Too bad for her.  I went to Michigan State University.  Home of the mighty Spartans.  I should stay on the subject.

The Taste of Chicago gives the public a chance to sample foods made by some of the many great restaurants in the greater Chicago area.  For those of you which are unfamiliar with Chicago, one of the reasons people love the city is because of the plethora of amazing eateries that are exclusive to the city.  Now keep in mind, I love to eat.  Whenever I spend time in Chicago, I come home at least 10lbs heavier.  This trip was no different.

During my time in Chicago I had many encounters as a customer.  During my next few blogs I will cover my trip in detail.  I will focus one post on my hotel accommodations.  This one is a total surprise to me and may surprise you because I will break one of the first rules I have imposed on myself as it pertains to my blogging.  When I sat down and decided to blog about customer service, I agreed to never mention the companies I was blogging about.  Have to break that rule.

Also, I will tell you about the restaurants I had the pleasure of visiting.  And here is a shocker, the four star restaurant had the worst service and the one star had the best service.  There were also a few in between.

Loads of great stories that I braved through so you wouldn’t have to.  STAY TUNED.

Today I was headed over to my closest cafe to get my regular favorite drink.  I happened to get behind a memorial processional.  People were speeding past the processional and cutting them off.  This experience took me back in time.  Let me explain.  Two years ago my wife lost both her maternal and paternal grandmother in less than a month time span.  They both lived in the same city in Mississippi.  Now when we spend time down there, I always noticed that people were very nice and always said hello.  They took the time to “smell the roses” if you will.  My wife’s maternal grandmother was very well-known in the community.  Along with that, she had 10 children.  To give her a proper memorial, the City had policeman all along the route to the memorial.  Also, they were able to secure one of the larger churches in the City.

The memorial was beautiful.  Countless people had many warm memories of Miss Nancy.  I only had the pleasure of spending time with Miss Nancy on two occasions.  This is going to sound horrible but I am going to tell you because I am more often than not, a transparent person.  Both times I spent with Miss Nancy were times when other family members had passed and we went to Mississippi for their memorial service.  Most recently, Grandma Smith had passed a month before Miss Nancy.  The time we spent was wonderful and warm.  We didn’t have a whole lot of history but she treated me like one of her own grandchildren.  I will forever feel grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time with Miss Nancy in her final days.  The main thing is that she was very happy, and never really had any regrets.

Now here is the main point of my story.  As the processional was leaving the church I was really astounded and touched at what I saw.  Traffic everywhere stopped.  Now keep in mind this was a long processional.  These people waiting were going to be waiting for a considerably long time.  One man In particular was on his daily jog.  Traffic was stopped all over the place so as a jogger he had Card Blanche.  He could have continued his jog without interruption; however, he stopped his jog, removed his hat, stood still on the side of the road with his hat in his right hand covering his heart.

I was totally blown away.  In all my years I had never seen anything like that.  I had heard of it happening but never saw it in action.  This was done out of respect of, by all accounts, a total stranger.  The people who were inconvenienced by this processional stopped and gave respect to the memorial of the deceased.  The reason is because it was the right thing to do.

Here is the really crazy thing.  I really was touched today by Miss Nancy’s memorial again today.  Where is the connection?  When I sat down to write this there was no connection.  I just wanted to blog about my experience today; however, about the third paragraph the connection emerged.  During the memorial, total strangers showed respect to someone they may have never met because it was the right thing to do.

 Every time a new customer emerges, you have the opportunity to show them respect and give them personal service.  The whole idea of making a great customer experience is to create a relationship with the customer that will last many years.  Don’t just rush through your pitch like you being made to wait is an inconvenience. Take the time to make the experience about them.   At the end of the day it is about the customer’s experience and not the rest of your day.