Stop me if you heard this one?  You’ve walk up to the counter at a “fast food” restaurant and were virtually ignored by the order taker?  Several weeks ago, I had wanted to grab a quick snack and decided that chicken would be a great alternative to an over-processed burger.  I stepped up to the counter to place my order and nodded my head to the cashier who was waiting for food to be placed in a warmer so that she could fill the order before mine.  I patiently waited and even took out my money, posed for a quick transaction when my turn came.  But instead of service, I was greeted with silence.  After being ignored for several long minutes, I decided that I wasn’t really that hungry for a “quick snack” and left.

Despite my reservations, I returned a few days later to attempt another order, this time for my girlfriend.  We had made some outrageously tasty chicken strips at home and had wanted potato wedges too.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have potatoes handy.  So I went back to the restaurant again, to get a large order of wedges and a tub of soda pop.  Again, I was basically ignored as the people worked on one order at a time.  What upsets me the most, however, was that after waiting nearly 15 minutes to place my order, I was told I needed to wait another 5 because the wedges had to be made yet.  Had they gotten everyone’s order first, they would have already had the wedges ready by the time my order was eventually assembled.  And yes, when I got home, our chicken strips were cold and I was left with a feeling that I gotten very bad customer service.

According to Renee Evenson in Customer Service Training 101, there are four basics to customer service:

  • First Impressions Matter
  • Courtesy Counts
  • Attitude is Everything
  • Doing the Right Thing: Ethical Issues

What was the first impression I got from the restaurant?  It was clean, which was a plus.  The employees all wore a uniform which shows professionalism.  But there wasn’t anyone really manning the registers, which to me shows the restaurant doesn’t care about my order.  Strangely, I felt as if I burdened them somehow by placing an order, as if I preparing my order would take away from their cleaning time.

Now I may have forgiven the restaurant for its bad service had the employees been more courteous to me.  According to Evenson, this requires saying words like please, thank you, and I’m sorry.  It means addressing people as sir or ma’am.  More importantly for me, it involves saying things with a smile.  If you are a phone representative, customers can hear a smile on your voice.  And if you address customers face-to-face, they can certainly see it there.  In my first encounter, the young lady who ignored me may have gotten me to stay longer had she addressed me first and apologized for not being able to take my order right away.

Remember how I said earlier that I felt I was burdening the employees by placing an order?  This may be a result of the attitude I got from the employees there.  It seemed like they didn’t want to make any of the orders, let alone take them.  Evenson says that “…good or bad, your attitude is what people are going to remember about you.”  The author adds that you need to believe in yourself.  This confidence reflects in your work.  You also need to appreciate what you and others around you do.

The final basic of Customer Service is doing the right thing.  Doing the right thing means being honest about a situation and being accountable for what happens.  In my case, had the cashier explained why there was a delay, it would have defused much of the situation.  They may have been an employee short or maybe there was a large order placed in drive-thru.  The fact that nothing was explained; just me feel that much more ignored.

The good news is that I will never get bad service from that restaurant again.  Unfortunately, this is because I will not be going there anymore.  If you are in Customer Service or have a customer service department in your company, you may want to see what quality of service you are providing your customers.    If you start with the basics of customer service and build from this strong foundation, you will create outstanding service that people will rave about.

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