Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where has all the customer service gone?

Customer service is a dying art. Or is it a science? I get the two confused these days. Anyhow… the one thing I’m not confused about is what makes good customer service. Some of the simple phrases… like “please” and “thank you” and “how may I help you” and “please visit us again” are not phraseology commonly heard much these days.

Go to a moderately priced sit-down restaurant these days (like TGI Fridays, or Ruby Tuesdays, or Applebee’s… you know the kind) and place your order and the response you’ll get is “sounds good” or ask for an extra napkin and you’ll get a “no problem.”

I was at a restaurant and there was a piece of machinery in my soup (honestly folks, I can’t make this stuff up). I set it out on a napkin and when I told the waiter about it, he shrugged his shoulders and said “I wonder how that happened” and then he walked away! No “I’m really sorry about that” or “Let me ask the manager to cover over and talk to you about this.” I didn’t even get an offer for a replacement bowl of soup.

Of course I didn’t eat it. And when my bill came, the soup was still on the bill. When I asked the waiter to remove the soup from the bill, he said I’d have to talk to the manager. My reply was “gladly, please ask the manager to pay me a visit.” The manager took the cost of the soup off the bill but wasn’t much better at offering an apology for the hardware discovery.

I shared this story with some friends over dinner recently in Baltimore. My story opened up a litany of stories from everyone around the table about similar experiences. We concluded that customer service has, for the most part, become an extinct art (or science). What hasn’t befell the same fate is the expectation of a 15 or 20% tip.

When you're on the street serving your customer... remember to say please and thank you... even if it is your 10th EMS call in the shift... it is your first time serving that customer.

Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO

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