Monday, November 12, 2007

Whatever Happened to "Customer Service"?

I seem to be on a roll here with my rants, but I'm hoping this one doesn't turn into that. Too much.

So I stopped by Sonic on the way home today (from a prenatal visit with a really great pediatrician. We've found our Dr.!), and ordered my usual: grilled chicken sandwich, Sonic Sized fries with cheese (yes, I know that's not very healthy. Bite me.), and a regular Ocean Water. The guy at the microphone rattles off my order so quickly I can hardly understand a word he says (not to mention his hispanic accent is very thick). Because I am so tired and hungry I just went "uh huh" and paid for my order. Well, the carhop comes out and gives me my food, and I double check it to make sure. Lo and behold there is an order of Sonic Sized tots covered in cheese (can we say ewwww?) instead of fries. By this time the carhop has already gone back inside, so I press the order button again and this time say "I had ordered a Sonic Sized fries with cheese and instead received tots."

"Oh, you wan fries?"

"Yes, please."

The manager himself comes out with the correct order a few minutes later, apologizing for the misunderstanding. That's customer service. So it got me thinking. I find it amazing (call me naive) that people just don't care. Food is ordered and when it comes back wrong the waitress acts like it's the customer's fault. Very rarely am I greeted when I enter a store. We talk to machines and then rude operators when important questions must be asked over the phone.

When I worked as a retail associate, my manager absolutely loved me. Not because I was good at my job, which I wasn't (I tended to be a tad bit slower than my co-workers and very detail oriented), but because I treated the customers with respect. If an upset customer was more than I could handle I would gently tell him or her that I would get the manager to help them. In the year that I worked at that store, I developed a good sized group of customers that would rather deal with me than my co-workers, or would only come in on the days I worked.

Why was I like this? Because the first thing I learned about the job when I went in for an interview was that the customer ALWAYS comes first, even before making a sale. One reason is that while a customer might make a purchase (getting me a sale) when they're treated rudely, they might not ever come back. But if a customer is treated with respect, even if they don't buy anything that time they still know that they can come back and be treated the same.

I think a lot of employees base how they treat customers on how much they get on their paycheck. Perhaps this was never a problem for me because I don't work for the money, I work because it gives me something to do...a sense of accomplishment (maybe that's why I'm planning on becoming a teacher after the baby's born). Or perhaps that's just the way I was raised. My mother taught me from an early age that I should be respectful of others and should treat others how I want to be treated. That whole "love thy neighbor" concept.

My bit of advice to those who work in customer service areas...please consider that the customer is a human, too. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you would like to be treated were you in their place. The customer isn't always right, but he or she IS the reason you receive a paycheck, no matter how small that paycheck might be.

(FYI to those in the northern states, Sonic Drive-In is an american fast-food chain that allows customers to drive up, order their food, then have it delivered by a carhop. And in my opinion it's pretty good food)

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