Customer Service Has Become a Choice, Not a Given

 About 2 weeks or so ago, I had a rather unpleasant experience at a local fast food joint (you may have seen them...with a brightly colored, single letter on their signs and so many billion served).
The scuffle revolved around the phrase "while supplies last" in relation to a promo they were running. The Large cups with the game piece were out, but there were plenty of medium cups that still had pieces. I argued that since there were still pieces in the store, that they still had "supplies." They argued that there were no more pieces on the large cups and that if I wanted a medium drink, I would need to buy a medium drink.  In the end, I wound up paying for a large meal and only getting a medium cup (so great was my game-lust). After the ensuing food coma, I was as mad as hell (and I wasn't going to take it) so I fired off an email (I love instant gratification) to the corporate powers that be.
Yesterday I got a letter along with a coupon for a free value meal. I decided that my faith in big business was restored. I went to the same location last night and asked for a value meal with a large drink and fries (since that was the meal I'd ordered). Now, instead of being told that I would need to pay the difference for the large drink and fries (which I probalby would have done), I was summarily told that the cards were only good for medium fries and drink.
"Where does it stay that on the card?" I'm not completely serious here, and still riding the wave of the feel-good letter they sent.
"It's not on the card, sir. That's just the way it is." English as a second language really pisses me off when I'm getting ready to get into a verbal row.
"Show me where it tells me that and I'll be fine with it." Now I'm only half-kidding, but still very calm and even-toned.
"Um..it doesn't say that...but..um...Mary?" Fine. Defer to the manager--certainly they will understand the importance of customer service and this will all be over soon, you can go back to your fry vats, I can get on with clogging my arteries).
"Yes, what?" This is the same b**** that caused me to write the letter in the first place. This is going south quickly. It's not going to end pretty for anyone.
"He wants to use this card with a large fry and drink" Actually, I wanted fries-plural, but close enough Fernando.
"No. He can't. That can only be used for medium drink and fries." I'm not sure i'm hearing this correctly. So I asked for clarification. 
"Show me where it says that, either on the card or on your menu board." Now all pleasantries are dispensed. I'm pissed by this point and having a hard time not yelling at this clueless skank. I'm pretty sure I know why the counter sizes were increased. Jumping over the counter wasn't an option (although I think I may have thought about it for a split second).
"It doesn't say it. That's just our policy." No. According to the letter your corporate office sent me, your policy is "100% Customer Satisfaction Every Time." Bzzzt. Thanks for playing. How DID you get that blue shirt and funny cravate?
And here I give her one last chance. I've got an audience by this time (and no, I don't give a rat's ass what they were thinking, this had nothing to do with them).
"Do you understand why I even have this card in the first place? I have this card because of POOR service from THIS restaurant which caused me to send a letter to your corporate office" (unspoken-You stupidly thick freak!!)
"I know but, you can't get large. That card's good for medium only." It was the quick dismissal that there was ever any problem that sent me over the edge.
I snatched the card out of her hand and might have said something like "Fine, fuggit" and left. In a big huff the likes of which hadn't been seen since WNCI paid me for 4 hours of volunteer work (read: Telemarketing) with a NKOTB promo album.  Idiots.
I went home, plotting my revenge. The scathing letters that I would send swam around in my brain. I'm sure I drove my wife nuts with my stewing. I even contemplated throwing their free food back in their faces. Sending the cards back to their corporate office along with a tasty little explanation of why I wouldn't be using it at that location ever. Ha! THAT would certainly send the message home!
It's amazing what a nights sleep will do for sanity.
I woke up this morning realizing that the wench at the restaurant didn't really care. No amount of my ranting and raving was going to change that. The only thing it would do was piss me off more and make me an unbearable SOB. She didn't care about why I felt wrong. To her it was probably just another day. It seems that providing good customer service is no longer the norm. We have sunk to a new low in mediocrity and it's now the accepted behavior.  This lady clearly didn't get it and they obviously saw so many of those "We Screwed Up" cards that they have lost their meaning (which should be a red flag. Like "Hey, why are we getting so many of these??")
And I realized that me giving up free food was going to do nothing to change this. And, c'mon, it's FREE food for crapsakes!
I actually felt pretty good about this decision as I went to grab a sandwich today. There's one of these same restaurants across the street from where I work, so I went in and displayed my card and asked, "Can I get this with a large fry and drink?" The dude behind the counter looked at the card and then looked over at his manager, "Can he get a large fry and drink with this?"  She looked at him and said, "He can have anything he wants." And she smiled. Like I was the boss!
Hells yeah.
THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!!
Customer freakin' Service.
And she wasn't pissy or put out. There was no hesitation. Why? Because she knew what that card was....a means of customer retention. A customer using one of those cards is not trying to get a free meal. They are trying to decide whether or not to give the restuarant another chance (on the restaurant's dime).  And thanks to her response at lunch today, the answer is "yes."
I guess for some people, Customer Service isn't really a choice at all...it's required.


Jenny said...

Todd you're a riot. "Customer freakin' Service," indeed!

I have been ranting about this very subject for a long time, and it ticks me off that NOBODY CARES, and the customer is ALWAYS wrong.

I work in Customer Service, and I know the power I have to let the customer have what they want, or else not, according to how I'm feeling that day. If the customer is nice, I'm a whole lot more forgiving. If they are constantly trying to get something for nothing, well, that's not cool and I tend to let them have it.

But 99% of the time, I make sure that myself and my co-workers are right on the ball, helping customers find what they are looking for, and making their lives a lot easier. And when I go into a store and someone rolls their eyes at me from behind the counter, I want to hurt them. REALLY BAD.

So I know what you're talking about. Rock on!

Todd S. said...

I agree. The apathy to this is unbelievable. My wife had a similar (albeit more drawn out) incident with Sofa Express that boiled down to Customer Service.

I grew up thinking that the customer was always right. I work for a company that writes software for Consumer Affairs Call Centers at major companies. So, I know what goes into customer retention. And I think someone does get it (otherwise they wouldn't buy our software), but that never trickles down to the front lines.

The $6 fry cook doesn't give a rip if you're pissed off or not. And I would imagine that as a manager bathing in a daily conditioner of fry vat spatter and burger-roma that it would be hard to really care either.

But I'd bet you if THEY were out somewhere and had bad service, the first thing they'd say would be "Well. We would never treat someone like that in my restaurant."

It's all about respect.

Apathy's killing this country and nobody cares.

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