New To Me?

Recently, I was going into one of my favorite coffee shops to take care of my coffee fix and get a bite to eat.  I walk in and get a smile and greet from the Barista.  Everything is going well.  I order my normal tall drink and my favorite bagel with cheese and roast beef (DELISH!).  The Barista offers me a Grande.  I decline.  I am trying to be more conscious of what I am eating.  Yea right!  I’m eating a bagel with roast beef, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese……… not quite the breakfast of champions.  Anyhow, my drink comes up and the Barista tells me he will bring my bagel to my table.  Thanks.

I walk over to my table, power on my laptop, and connect to their wifi.  Now I am up and running and ready to work.  Two to three minutes later the Barista delivers my bagel sandwich to the table.  As he sits it on the table, I notice that it is over cooked.  The bagel was basically burnt on the outside.  Now here is the “New To Me?” part.  I knew right away that it was unsatisfactory; however, for some reason I felt like I couldn’t take it back.  Why in the world would I feel this way?  This is one of the cafe’s I frequently patronize.  Some of the Baristas know me by my first name.  I felt like I had to eat it or throw it out without saying anything to the staff.  So I tried a bite of the sandwich.  It was too hard and the roast beef was rubbery.  The whole slice of roast beef came out of the sandwich because I couldn’t cut it with my teeth.  That is it!  I put it down on the plate and decided not to eat it.  At the same time I decided to do my work and finish my coffee and leave without saying anything.  After a few minutes I told myself that before I left I would tell the Barista and ask for a refund.  Then I thought, man I’m hungry!  I want to eat something.  I can’t work well on an empty stomach.  I have got to give them the opportunity to make this right.  I am a regular customer here; therefore, I have an obligation to my relationship to this cafe to let them know about the situation and give them the opportunity to make things right.  So I go over to the counter and tell the Barista that the sandwich is burnt and I would like a replacement.  No problem he says.  He will deliver it to my table.

Now here’s the lesson.  I am a regular customer at this establishment.  I have made a relationship with some of the employees by way of regular visits.  If I am somewhat reluctant to bring this issue to the employees and give them the opportunity to satisfy me, what will happen when a new customer comes in and has a similar experience?  Will they be upset and say nothing and never return?  Will they ask for a refund and storm out?  Will they eat the burnt sandwich and tell everyone they know never go there because the employees don’t know what they are doing?

At the end of the day, we must attempt to take care of our customers the first time we have the opportunity.  Some customers won’t say a word and they will never return.  Some customers will return with an idea of the service they will receive based on previous bad service.  And then you have people who may work in the service industry and will give you a second opportunity to take care of them.  You can never please all the customers all the time, but if you take the attitude that you are going to own the service or stand behind the goods 100%, you will take pride in what you do and you will therefore make a better product or give exceptional service because that is what you want to receive.

I Need to Recharge, NOW!

Last weekend my wife was in Atlanta visiting with her brother and stepmother.  That means I was left at home to take care of my 5 children.  Now don’t get me wrong I love my children but this helps set the scene.  It is Friday afternoon and I am picking the last three up from school in my wife’s van.  We pull up and park the van and shut off the engine.  I am sitting with my youngest and oldest in the car.  The baby is sleeping.  I am attempting to extract the events of my oldest daughters day at school.  Keep in mind she is 15 and completing her first year in high school.  So some of you probably know, she didn’t learn anything and can’t remember what she did in school today.  Typical.  So a few minutes pass and the rest of my children make it to the van and we are ready to go.

As the kids are all buckling up, I turn the key to start the car.  Nothing!  I try again, Nothing!  So I sit there for a moment and think.  After, a minute or two pass the children are now wondering why we are not moving yet.  So I tell them the battery is dead.  My children are so dramatic.  They start going crazy saying things like “We are never gonna get home!”, “Mommy is not here to come and get us.”  Really this hurt my feelings a little.  Don’t they know, I am the one who put 24/7 roadside service on our insurance plan.  Kids are unbelievable.  So I calmly called my insurance provider to get the roadside service on the way.  They inform me that I could wait up to an hour for the service to arrive. GREAT!

Now I remember, the last time I took my wife’s van in for some work they told me I would have to replace the battery soon.  I should have listened.  Anyway, during my time waiting I called around to about four places to see how much a battery would be.  One of the places I called is the regular place I go to get all my replacement parts.  Battery in stock $99.99.  That sounds about right but I called three other stores to see if I could find it cheaper.  I ended up finding it cheaper by $5 at another store.  I thought to myself, why go to a competitor of my regular store for a $5 discount.  Now I’m sure you know people who would jump ship and go to the competitor for a $5 discount.  I do too; however, I don’t understand that.  If I have a relationship with someone and they treat me well 90% of the time, I am not going to jump ship for a 5% discount.

I made up my mind and went to my regular store.  It was on my way home anyway.  The roadside service came in 15 minutes I was impressed.  The guy that gave me a jump was very pleasant.  He got my battery charged up and we were on our way.  I pull into the parking lot of my auto parts store.  I walk in the door and am greeted with a smile.  How are you doing today?  How can I help you?  I tell him what I need, he looks it up and he is off to get it.  We go over to the register and he is ringing me up.  He asks for my member card and of course, I don’t have it.  He proceeds to find me in the system.  As he is looking me up, I mention that one of his competitors had the same battery for five bucks cheaper.  He then said I will give you that $5 dollars off today.  GREAT!  Now that he has found my card he finds that I have $20 in credit on my account.  However, without a card I cannot use the credit.  He then explains that if I get a new card I can transfer the old credit to a new card if I tell customer service I lost my card.  GREAT!

So I call customer service and get my old account transferred to a new card and was able to use the $20 credit.  How awesome is that.  The Sales Associate gave me the price match without any proof, helped me save $20 by transferring my account to a new card, and installed the battery.  This is a great example of the Sales Associate going the extra mile for a customer because he was empowered by someone in his organization to take care of the customers and do the right thing.  I will never question where I should go for my auto parts needs.

The Early Bird Gets the Star

Here is the thing. Giving exceptional customer service is all about “Attitude”. As the customer service representative you make the choice to give exceptional customer service, or you are just going through the motions. When you make the commitment to work in customer service, you must realize to excel at your job you must treat every customer with respect first and foremost.

The “Attitude”, is one of acceptance.  First you must accept that people are not out to get you.  On some occasions, customers have been treated wrong by another associate.  In other instances, there was some miscommunication between another associate and the customer.  Maybe it was a new associate that was misinformed.  Maybe the miscommunication originated from you.  It doesn’t matter how the situation occurred.  The most important point is that now is your opportunity to defuse the situation and turn the customer service challenge into a customer experience success story.  Remember, the majority of people do not wake up in the morning looking to push your buttons.  However, sometimes when you are serving customers, they will push your buttons and test your patience.  This is where the “Attitude” of acceptance comes into play.  At this point you must accept that the customer has an issue with a prior experience or their current experience.  When your attitude is correct you will be able to stay calm even in very stressful situations.  You must get the customer to explain the problem in a manner that you can understand.  After you fully understand the situation, you want to empathize with the customer and confirm there is an understanding between you and the customer.  Next, you will give the customer the option to tell you what they would like to be done differently to resolve the conflict.  At this point a great deal of customers will ask for something totally reasonable.  For these customers I will also give them a little bonus “cherry on top”.  This will ensure they are happy and will remember where to go if they have issues in the future.  On some occasions,  you will get a customer that wants you to break the bank to make them happy.  Unfortunately, in business you cannot break the bank.  With these customers you have to try to take care of them by explaining your intent and also telling them exactly how you are able to take care of them.  They may not leave with bags of free goods or a years worth of free services but they will leave with more than they originally came in with.

When you are in the customer service position you must have the “Attitude” early.  The “Attitude” says that you will own the customer service that you and anyone in your organization gives.  Therefore, you know going in that your “Attitude” must win over customers.  Sometimes, your “Attitude” will cause a customer to give you and your organization another chance to earn their business.  You must give customer service unto others as you would want to be given customer service to.  Get your “Attitude” right before you walk in the door and your customers will rate you a 5-star customer service representative.

Coffee run. Who’s in?………We Love It!

My  wife and I are certified coffee-house junkies.  The other day two of my children and I went out for a caramel cappuccino for myself and hot cocoa for my wife and children.  We came in and were immediately greeted with a smile and a how are you doing.  My children had gift cards so they had to order separately.  You know how kids want to feel grown-up and handle their business without your help.  I was paying for everything else.  So I ordered for my other children, my wife and myself.  The Barista scanned my frequency card.  My next drink is FREE!  Awesome!  I happily proceeded to the end of the counter where I will pick up my finished delicious caramel cappuccino.  As our drinks came up, the Barista repeated what she prepared.  Two short magic milks(hot cocoa), a grande caramel cappuccino(yummy), and a double grande magic milk?  So I asked whats the difference between the regular magic milk and the double grande magic milk?  You guessed it ESPRESSO.

You haven’t lived until you’ve had a delicious cappuccino.

So I told her, I need that grande magic milk without ESPRESSO.  If I take that home, my wife will kill me, she hates espresso.  The Barista smiled said definitely and whipped up a fresh grande magic milk.  She then thanked us for our business, bid us a great day and we were off to enjoy our drinks.

Somewhere during this transaction there was a miscommunication.  It may have been an error on my part or it may have been an error on the part of the Barista.  Either way, the Barista didn’t show any frustration and she didn’t get an attitude with me.  She took what was a potentially a customer service challenge and turned it into a customer service success story.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Apple Cider……

Last fall my family and I went out to a very popular cider mill for fresh apple cider and donuts.  We’ve made this trip a few times and the kids love the experience.  During this trip it just so happened to be one of the best Saturday’s (weather wise) in the history of Michigan fall Saturdays.  It was 80 degrees a little cloudy with a cool fall breeze.  The cider mill was jam packed.  Normally you can go into the mill and watch the cider and donuts being made fresh.  Today the line was out the door.  It was so packed they opened up a separate building and there was an equally long line to get cider and donuts. CRAZY BUSY!  Since both lines were long I got into the secondary line because 75% of the line was out doors and it was a beautiful day.  So about 20 minutes into the wait, I’ve made it probably 3/4ths of the way to the front.  It’s about 30 minutes before the secondary line is closing and the line is just as long as it was when I got in it.  So right about this time a young lady who is working behind the counter comes out to make an announcement.  She says, “We are just about out of gallons and half gallons of Cider.  We have 6 more gallons and about 20 more half gallons.  Once we run out here, you will have to go to the main mill to get your cider.  It doesn’t make sense to bring more down here because we would have to take it back to the mill when we close.  We have plenty of donuts”

I want some fresh cider.

Really?

Mind you, the line at the main mill was just as long.  So the people that couldn’t get their cider from the secondary line would now have to get in the line at the main mill which will now add 30 – 45 more minutes to their wait.  By this time I was in the front of the line and would be one of the lucky ones to get my cider and donuts here.  If I was in the back of the line and had already waited for 30+ minutes, I would definitely take my business elsewhere.

In this situation, the employee made it seem like she was tired and ready to go home.  So instead of her and her team taking care of the remaining people currently in line, she is forcing them to wait longer so she can work less.  This is horrible customer service.

Welcome to the 21st Century……

My wife and I recently moved our technology into the 21st century.  For the past year our cell phones have been far less than average in regards to technology and function options.  Sometimes my phone would power down every time I placed it on a surface.  Even if I gently placed it down, it would power off immediately.  My wife’s phones keypad wouldn’t work at all.  She would have to flip the phone open and use the qwerty keypad to utilize any functionality on her phone.

So we hemmed and hawed for almost an entire year(typical) with no contract because we didn’t want to get the infamous “Data Package”.  We try do cut costs whenever possible.  We don’t even have cable for crying out loud.  Maybe I’m also cheap.  I don’t know.  Anyhow, my wife found a phone that would fit both of our needs; however, it would have the “Data Package”.  Oh well.  At this point there was no getting away from it.  This phone had an awesome price, FREE with a two year contract extension.  She ordered the phones and they are coming in two days.  We didn’t even have to pay for shipping.

I have the pleasure of being at home when the delivery gets there.  The doorbell rings, and I answer the door.  “Good afternoon sir, I have a delivery for you.”  He only had one box.  It looked large enough for two cell phones.  So I said, “Only the one box?”  He replied “Just the one today.”  “We ordered two cell phones and this box looks big enough to hold two.”  He said he would  check in his truck to see if there was another.  If there was another we would see him again.  We parted ways and that would be the only time I saw him that day.

The next day came, about midday and I heard a ring at the door.  It was the same deliveryman as the day before.  He not only remembered our conversation from the day before but he also explained to me how sometimes these shipments come out of different warehouses and show up on different days because of location of the warehouses.  Today, I came to the door my 7month old son.  The deliveryman took this opportunity to spark a conversation about my son, as he has a son at home that is less than a year old.  He made what could have been a routine delivery an exceptional customer experience for me.

I know how the global logistics works.  The deliveryman/woman have hundreds of deliveries daily.  They work 10 to 12 hours everyday.  For him to remember this one stop and what he delivered yesterday is amazing.  In addition, for him to go out of his way and have a non-related conversation with me when he probably has 6-8 more hours of work shows that he cares about his customer.

A Night on the town…

There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with family and sharing great experiences.  Recently, my older brother was home for a few days and we got together one night along with my father for a bite to eat.  My brother has been living out of state for about 10+ years and has no idea where to get a meal when he visits home.  My father is very accommodating so I am making the dinner choice for the night.  I make the suggestion and we are off to one of our local sports bar.

It is a Thursday night during football season approximately 9:45pm.  When we arrive, there are 3 of 30 tables occupied and every seat at the bar is occupied.  We seat ourselves(standard at 90+% of sports bars).  There are 2 waitresses for the now 4 tables.  Our waitress now comes over and says “Can I start you off with any drinks?”  No introduction, no welcome to our watering hole, just “Can I start you off with any drinks?”  So we order drinks and as she scurries away we remind her that we will be eating and need menus.  She returned fairly quickly with our drinks and menus.  She encourages us to look over the menus and she will return in a few minutes.  She was back very quickly to now take our food order.  The food was served in less than 10 minutes.  Wonderful!  Now keep in mind this is a sports bar.  As far as the quality of the food goes, I was expecting your average tasting bar food.  I was correct.  The food was average tasting.  We ate our food, finished our drinks, and waited for her return.  She came back with our check.  She never offered more drinks or asked us how things were.  I definitely wanted more drinks.  I graduated from one of the biggest party schools in the BIG10.  More drinks for me is like more cake for a fat kid.  Just ask, I’m more than willing to increase my expenditures for another 3 or 4 rounds.  If I was waiting tables I would try to get my guests as sauced up as possible; maybe they would, in their drunken state, leave me a fifty dollar tip.

Now I’m curious.  So I ask when is closing time?  “Usually when things slow down.”  At this point it was approximately 11pm and you could tell she wanted out of there.  So we pay the waitress.  She says thanks and have a good evening.

My brother asks, “How much do we tip?”  I tell him we shouldn’t tip at all.  She didn’t do anything worthy of a tip.  She never attempted to make us feel welcome.  She never even brought us water.

Here is the deal.  Our waitress had all the opportunity to make our visit a memorable one.  She could have introduced herself, given us very personal service, or even taken the time to offer us more drinks.  But instead she was more interested in what she was getting into that night after work, or how long she had to study for her mid-term exam.  Maybe she thought these three guys look like cheapos, they won’t tip very well.

My wife waited table for three years after my youngest daughter was born.  I have heard “They work for tips” probably a thousand times.  So I definitely understand that waiters/waitresses make next to nothing without tips.  That being said, exceptional service can only be given when we give service unto others as you would want to be served.
When a customer feels that your main concern as a customer service provider is their experience being a memorable one for all the right reasons, that is what makes an exceptional customer experience.

This was obviously not a good experience for me.  I will, however, give this local sports bar another chance sometime in the future.  I don’t know when, and I don’t know for what reason but they will have another opportunity to WOW me with a great experience.