Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is Customer Service a lost art?

It never ceases to amaze me how customer service can range from good to... practically nonexistent. I love the experience of going to a store or restaurant and encountering a staff member who clearly loves her job. She greets the customer with a smile and exudes a passion for what she does. In turn, the customer feels good and eager to return the favor (perhaps by rewarding that person with a generous tip).

I think customer service is becoming a lost art because these days th
ere are so many people doing jobs that they just don’t want to do. Personally, I can’t imagine being that unhappy with the work I do every day. Because then not only are you unhappy, but everyone you interact with can sense that and it puts a damper on their day too.

Customer service is exactly what those two words mean: serving the customer. And when you receive bad customer service you can’t help but be upset. I recently went to Best Buy and had a HORRIBLE experience. I was literally standing beneath a big sign that read “Customer Service” while having a disagreement with the store manager. I was explaining to her that a store representative had promised me something earlier (which my partner, Ryan, had heard as well), and then when I was going to take him up on the offer, he lied right to my face and said he hadn’t offered me the deal. The manager refused to help me in any way, and I kept reminding her that I was standing at the counter for “customer service.” In an almost comical way, I even pointed up at the sign as if she didn’t know—embarrassing Ryan in the process, who I could tell was thinking, “Oh my god, he’s pointing out the sign....” But it was just shocking to me that someone who is working in the customer service department could have no understanding of what customer service actually is.

All too often, when you go to Starbucks in a big city like New York, the cashier doesn’t look up, doesn’t smile, doesn’t ask you how you are, and doesn’t say “thank you.” However, when you go to the smaller parts of the country, the person behind the counter usually looks up and says right away, “Hi, how are you?” and then “Thank you for your order.” And this person seems to really mean it. This is what should be happening everywhere, all the time. Kindness and courtesy are extremely contagious. Good customer service results in good client relations, which creates a positive environment and keeps everybody happy. Really, it’s the simple things—like a genuine smile—that can make the biggest difference.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Mind your manners

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and been embarrassed for a dining companion who treated the wait staff poorly? You can learn a lot about someone—both good and bad—when you go out to eat with them. If he or she treats the waiter like hired help, it’s obvious to me that they have never been on that side of the fence.

I had gone on several business meetings with one associate who I thought was sweet… until I realized what kind of person she really was, based on how she behaved in a restaurant. When we went out for breakfast, she would literally scold the waiters. One day she asked the waiter to bring kosher salt for her omelet. The waiter brought table salt (which has smaller granules), and she said, “No, I told you I wanted kosher salt. Do you know what kosher salt is?” And so he brought another kind of salt, to which she scathed, “This is not kosher salt. Would you mind bringing me back to the kitchen so I can show you what kosher salt is?”

I was mortified just to be associated with her. I mean, really? It’s just salt... Eat the eggs without salt or use the salt you have... crazy! I actually leaned toward the waiter and mouthed “I’m sorry.” The next time we scheduled a breakfast meeting, all I wanted to do was call in advance and request kosher salt for our table because I couldn’t bear to watch another scene like that again.

I can certainly relate to the waiter because I worked service jobs when I was younger. I mowed lawns, delivered newspapers, and swept floors at a flower shop. When I was a room service waiter, I remember being barked at for any little thing. If I was a second late, the guests had a fit.

Pay attention to people when you go to restaurants—whether it’s a diner or five-star restaurant. Watch how they treat a waiter… it says everything. And by the way, if you’re the one being nasty to your waiter, I’d be a bit worried about my food if I were you! If you’ve seen Waiting..., you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s just like that old saying… you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. A smile, a hello, a please and thank you are such easy things to do and say… and they get you so much in return.