Working hard…

Big project. Biiiiig project. Papers from the newest section of the project keep flying all over the place when I pull them out of the project folder. Makes me look sloppy, plus it’s driving me crazy. Heading over to a meeting, I pass my favorite office superstore and decide to pop in to use a stapler. People make copies there all the time, they’re bound to have a heavy-duty stapler, right?

Sure they do, but unlike their regular staplers, it’s behind the counter. I hand over the 50-page chunk and thank the customer service person profusely for his help.

He comes back and hands over the neatly stapled papers, and asks me to wait a second.

He rings it up.

“Sorry,” he says, clearly embarrassed. “That’ll be 2¢.”

I was more surprised than annoyed (after all, I did get a staple out of the deal). I handed over the two cents.

My advice to you, should you ever find yourself with such a pitiable task as to charge a customer for what amounts, essentially, to nothing: let them walk with a smile. Stick your own two cents in the till when they’ve gone. It would have been worth the goodwill.

Hardly working…

New restaurant. The Kid’s been dying to try it out. I decide it’ll make a nice weekend splurge, so we go.

“I’ll have the XYZ,” I say.

“Would you like that in our dinner combo that comes with bunches of other stuff?”

“Oh, yes. I wanted two of those three items but I didn’t see them. I’ll take the combo, but don’t put the third thing on.”

“Want double of the other stuff instead?”

“Sure! I’ll share it with The Kid. Thanks!”

A few minutes pass.

“Sorry, Miss. We can’t do double of the other thing.”

“Oh. Well, okay, then, as we said. The combo but without the third thing.”

Again, no harm. I got what I wanted, The Kid shared my side orders anyway, nobody starved.

Should you ever find yourself in this situation: two choices. Don’t promise it if you don’t know it’s possible; or if you’ve promised it, fercryingoutloud, make it happen. It wasn’t the end of the world but especially when your restaurant is new, you don’t want to give people the feeling that you have even slightly incompetent service. Leave that for when you’re more established, like…

This Experience is broken

The Kid and I have a super-favorite restaurant near our place. When a Monday has just been too darned Monday, you may find us there, watching sports on the telly and the fishies in the beautiful tank, hashing over the day, taking our time with our meal, and making sure at least one server has a reason to come in on the quietest day of the week. Like many former restaurant people, I treat our servers very well, and they love us in return.

(Mondays being what they are, I have never understood why everyone doesn’t cry Uncle and let professionals cook for them on Mondays. But I digress…)

I’m no millionaire. We don’t go weekly, but we’ve lived near the place for five years and been regulars all that time on a mighty quiet day. Let’s just say they get the drink order ready when they see us walking up, and they never forget that The Kid wants crayons and a kids’ menu to draw on.

Said restaurant provides salty munchies* when you sit down, to take the edge off as you consider the menu. Probably to pump up the drink orders, too, which is a time-tested, smart move for any restaurant where the bar may make up a good deal of the tab. That may originally have been part of why I liked the place. A single mom with a hungry little kid is thankful for anything that comes out right away and makes the evening more relaxing.

A while back we went in on a particularly Mondayish Monday, when even my racing to let professionals cook for me was hours late. We were starved and cranky and dying to head to a place where we can leave our troubles at the door.

We sat down. Our server came by with a wave, no salty munchies in hand. We ordered drinks. No salty munchies were offered. The drinks arrived; no doggone salty munchies. In my most polite, hey-we’re-all-buddies-here voice, I mentioned to the server that we’d love our little bowl of munchies whenever he got to it, no rush of course ho-ho, everybody gets busy (the place was very close to empty), just that we’re super-starving today…

“We don’t do that anymore.”

“Oh! No munchies anymore?”

“No… no munchies before you’ve put in an order anymore.”

I wasn’t quite understanding. “No munchies… before we’ve put in an order?”

“I guess people weren’t eating dinner, just the bowl of munchies. So now you have to order first.”

And true to his word, folks, though this man has served us literally dozens of times before and of course! never been stiffed by me, he waited until after we’d ordered to bring the blasted salty munchies.

Not only that, but in the three times (I say two times, but The Kid’s arguing with me so we’ll let it be her way)—in the three times we’ve been there since then, every darned server, folks who not only know what we usually order but even know what we’ll order when we’re feeling like changing it up or when we’re really going hog-wild—every server has withheld our munchies until after we’ve ordered the meal.

On a Monday, the meal comes flying out of the kitchen so fast that sometimes we don’t even take a bite before it’s time to start in on the main course. This, folks, is not relaxing. So whether it’s two times (!) or three, it’s a lot fewer visits than usual.

All over a bowl of munchies being brought out at the wrong time to a couple of their most loyal and best-tipping customers.

If you run a well-established restaurant and you decide to make customers feel like criminals by implying they’ll chow your free food and dirty your table just for the price of a couple of drinks, dear reader…

Well, don’t. But if you absolutely, positively must stop the wanton devouring of the munchies you’ve been using for years to bring in business…

Make sure your servers are allowed the discretion to criminalize only the new customers, who’ll go tell all their friends what cheapskates you are, not the lifetime-loyal customers, who’ll work hard to break their own habit of visiting you, tell all their friends what cheapskates you’ve become

and write about it on their blog.

Note, dear reader, that nobody stole anything from me, or harmed me, or was even rude to me in any of these stories. These folks were kind, pleasant, and seemed a bit embarrassed by how they were treating me. I came away thoughtful… maybe baffled… but not upset. These were not out-and-out bad customer experiences.

Customer Experience is a slippery thing, though. Diminishing it significantly is all too easy to do without much thought.

But if you’re doing it without much thought, then I reckon you weren’t trying to provide Maximum Customer Experience after all.

Something to think about.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


*Munchies not named to protect the not-so-innocent.