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Customer Service, a Lost Art?

I realize that a prior blog (3/19/17) related an incident that involved poor customer service. Recent encounters experienced by myself, family and friends, however, have prompted me to revisit this topic.

As I noted in my prior blog, I’m very familiar with customer service. For fifty years I worked in assorted venues of the customer service field and taught many other folks the aspects of quality customer service. Unfortunately, too often these days I see that customer service is treated as a misunderstood and fading art. And that, my friends, is a shame.

 

Most recently, my family and I, plus a few friends visited a franchised restaurant. All together there were twelve in our group. Because of that number, the “maître de” asked that we wait a few minutes in order to allow the staff time to set up tables and chairs that would accommodate our party. No problem. A few minutes later we were seated, with menus in front of us, prepared to enjoy dinner, drinks, and lively conversation.

Our waitress arrived, and that’s when the evening get-together began a slow, negative slide toward disaster. The young woman who waited on us never introduced herself to our group prior to circling the table to obtain our drink orders. Following a lengthy intermission, she finally returned with our drinks––with one miscue––and then proceeded to take our food orders. The minor drink order mistake was overlooked as we imbibed and chatted, each of us anticipating our menu selection.

After our group had been sitting in the establishment for an hour and a half total, we flagged down our waitress and asked about the status of our meals. As if the question came across as a great surprise, our waitress said, “Oh. I’ll go check.” More minutes passed before she seemed to burst through the kitchen’s swinging door with a huge tray. She then doled out our meals––all except one. The excuse for the isolated, additional delay: “Oh. He wanted his meat well-done, so it took longer.” Each of the meals, including the well-done one, were lukewarm at best, as if they’d been sitting on that tray entirely too long. Because our group was hungry and didn’t want to wait another hour and a half for a hot meal, we ate most of our entrees.

While we had waited, other patrons had received their drinks and meals from our waitress in a timelier and toastier manner, had paid their tabs, and were leaving. During our ordeal, the waitress never bothered to consult with any of our party to offer possible reasons for the delay with our food orders. It seemed as if it was the woman’s first day on the job as a waitress and she had no clue as to what her duties involved. As a result, her tips were meager to non-existent––even, “Here’s a tip: get a different job.” On our way out, management received an earful from several members of the group. Yeah, we can be a rough crowd, but it’s those hard lessons learned that are often retained the best.

So what could have––should have––been done in this instance?

First, the waitress should have introduced herself and established a more personal connection. Not doing so, not making that simple commitment she impressed most of us that she really didn’t care about us.

Secondly, the waitress should have better monitored the time and continued to communicate with all of her customers. If she was able to deliver food orders to other smaller parties, she should have checked the status of our group’s order as well and then communicated that status to our table.

She also should have continued to ask how we were doing and whether there was anything she might do to compensate for the delay in order to make our visit more pleasant. Most customers can understand, accept, and empathize with unexpected complications as long as they remain well-informed, not ignored. Most folks also recognize that, unless a person is a supreme multi-tasker, being a waitress or waiter is not an easy task, which is why they tip for services received.

If the young woman was inexperienced, or it was her first day on the job, she should have asked for assistance with our group. Also, management should have recognized that potential problems could arise with her and either assigned our table to a more experienced waitress or shared the duty between our waitress and another waitress. If she was improperly prepared, our waitress shouldn’t have been penalized for trying to earn her apron and order pad by waiting on a large group. Yes, sharing the table would mean sharing the overall tips. By working alone, however, our waitress was tipped far less than she would have been by sharing.

To be clear, none of our party routinely skimps on tips. In this case, however, we each paid an amount in proportion to the service that was received.

As stated in my previous blog, quality customer service is not only about offering products and services; it must first focus on the customers and their needs. The Golden Rule of quality customer service is The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (then take it up a notch). In that respect, quality customer service should be perceived as far more than an occupation. Instead, it should be a way of life we all practice toward one another every day.  So, how about it, folks? Had the restaurant management and staff focused on delivering quality customer service to all their customers, this entire negative situation would have been avoided. (And I’d be blogging about something else.)

2 thoughts on “Customer Service, a Lost Art?

  1. Gary: You know I agree, we’ve had a couple of conversations about the loss of good customer service. I’m enjoying your blog.
    RIDE EASY PARD…..Vic

    Like

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