July 10, 2003

THE LOST ART OF GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE

I experienced something yesterday that hadn't happened in quite some time. I received, and witnessed others receiving, outstanding customer service at a fast food restaurant. Now, before any of you start to go off on me for eating fast food -- especially after I've blogged about my cholesterol levels -- you should know that I ordered two salads, and nothing else! Anyway, here's what happened:

  1. Parking was tight but aided by a parking / crossing guard who was directing traffic with a big old smile on his face.
  2. As I approached the door, someone wearing a restaurant uniform swung the door open for me and said, "Welcome to Arby's."
  3. Despite being super busy, there were cashiers / order takers waiting and ready to take my order, each with a huge smile on their face. And since I hadn't been to an Arby's in years, my cashier (along with one of the store's FOUR on-duty managers) asked me what kind of food I was in the mood for. And when I mentioned the low cholesterol thing, they both knew the answer... one of two salads with a solid choice of low-fat dressings. And it wasn't even like they frowned or anything when telling me my options. Rather, they were jazzed that they could help me out.
  4. While I was waiting for my order, I noticed the same person who opened the door for me was now walking with a customer towards the counter, carrying her portable baby car seat (with baby in tow) for her!
  5. Also while waiting for the salads, which were made on the spot (not pre-packaged), another manager asked me where I worked and how my day was going. We actually had a nice 45 second conversation, in which I learned that Arby's now accepts your bank debit card and other credits cards as well.
  6. On my way out, I noticed a wall-mounted bell next to the door with a sign above it which read something like, "Ring Bell If You Appreciated Our Service." Of course, I rang the bell... to which every employee in the store let out a cool hoot & holler.

In this day and age, where a lot of people in the service sector seem lifeless and to generally hate their jobs (especially those punks working the concession counter at the movie theaters), it was refreshing to receive excellent customer for no reason other than the fact that I Am The Customer. Now, if Arby's could just make a good salad!

Posted by Mikal at July 10, 2003 5:48 AM | TrackBack


Comments:

Dude,

you guys still live in paradise. In Germany customer service or any kind of service never existed, does not exist right now and will never exist....

Posted by: chris at July 10, 2003 8:25 AM

Sometimes that's the hidden beauty of Germany. You can go into a store and don't have 10 different fake-smiling boppy 18 year olds asking every 2 minutes "Can I help you find something, Can I help you, Are you looking for anything in particular, Would you like to see our specials, Have you tried our new scent, Let me show the the two for one special..." Arrrgghh!! Just leave me alone to waste my money without you ripping it out of my pockets.

Posted by: Christina at July 10, 2003 8:57 AM

Hey - I like fast food, too. There's nothing like a trip to Taco Bell! I know the entire menu and can order by number, promotional names & slogans, or a la carte. But . . . I don't want to be pampered like you & others were at Arby's when I'm out for fast food. Just take my order, fill it, & move to the next person. If - and when - I want to be pampered, I'll go to Brooks Brothers or high end boutique shops. What can I say? I love shopping!! But not for *fast* food.

Posted by: Lee McDaniel at July 10, 2003 10:37 AM

Lee, from the sound of it...I don't think that Mikal's experience was *slow*. I believe that he likely got the best of both worlds.

Mikal, when I read your post, it made me think of a book, Raving Fans, that we had to read when we started at Finali. Excellent book with fantastic ideas for running a business. Sounds like you were a raving fan and that you received your +1% customer service.

Posted by: Matt Holzmann at July 10, 2003 10:55 AM

Lee: You're missing the point. The service was fast and thoughtful, unlike other similar places where the service is usually slow and done with no regard whatsoever for your hard-earned money.

Posted by: Mikal at July 10, 2003 10:57 AM

ok people,

what do you prefer, somebody with a maybe fake smile welcoming you at a store or the person giving you that look that they would love to use to kill you because you dared entering their store....

Posted by: chris at July 10, 2003 12:50 PM

Chris(toph): But the thing of it is that these people were not giving fake smiles. I truly believe that they were genuine and authentic. A rare thing these days, in my experience.

Posted by: Mikal at July 10, 2003 1:29 PM

Sometimes you have to appreciate the inner beauty of the German sales lady. No, she does not want to help. She only wants to make sure you do in fact steal something so she will have a more interesting day. :-)

Posted by: Christina at July 10, 2003 3:04 PM

Mikal - I got the point. I was just making another comment about service in general. Perhaps a nonsequiter, but not completely. I don't particularly *want* to be greeted, etc, - even if it is fast - when I'm at fast food places. I want food. And I want it fast. I *don't* want those extras because a. they annoy me, b. they waste (my valuable) time, and 3. I'm not used to them anyway. If I want the Best of Both Worlds, I'll watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. P.S. Does anyone want fries with that?? No wait. I should have started the post "May I interest you in our XXX adjective, adjective combination today for only $6.79???"

Posted by: Lee McDaniel at July 10, 2003 6:06 PM

Lee McD:: Now I'm the one who does not get it. Why on earth does someone being nice to you annoy you, and how is it that you experience niceness (if that's even a word) as being a waste of your time?... all of this of course just relating to the time you spend time in a fast food restaurant.

For me, there's nothing worse than standing around while waiting for a meal only to have the people behind the counter walking around like zombies, or even worse, to experience them being nice only to their fellow co-workers.

A little civility goes a long way in my book.

Posted by: Mikal B. at July 11, 2003 7:03 AM

Mikal, remember Chatchkies (sp?) in Office Space and the super-flair guy Brian? I think that's the "annoying" bit of niceness similar to what Lee meant. But...I know what you mean too. Sometimes a little kindness can really make one's day. I make my determination between fake and genuine kindness.

Posted by: Christina at July 11, 2003 8:48 AM

You mean all German waiters are this angry at the world?

Posted by: Young Luke at July 17, 2003 11:00 PM

Yes Young Luke,

most of them, but they don't really know why they are angry and at whom ....

Posted by: chris at July 18, 2003 6:50 AM

Oops, meant to have a link to my visit to the Hofbrauhaus there: http://users.rcn.com/stubb/europe02/0225/picture.html?7

Posted by: Young Luke at July 18, 2003 10:45 PM

That ONLY happens in the Midwest. I don't miss the summers; but the "service" part of customer service is apparently in some language that no one in retail in MOST of the country can understand.

Thanks for sharing, MB

Posted by: Mark H. Rowland at July 25, 2003 8:15 PM



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