Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can I have a side of customer service, please?

As our fast-paced world finds us looking for options to speed up processes, we have implemented systems and products designed to make our lives easier. I’m not just talking about technology replacing maids like Rosie the Robot on the Jetsons, or the phone system replacing a human when you’re trying to call your bank that leaves you pressing 1 to send you to cyber-nowhere. I’m referring to the dying art of customer service in the restaurant industry. I can understand the lack of the personal touch in fast-food restaurants. My expectations are inherently low. I drive through. I place my order from a minimum wage teenager. And my only hope is that my order is correct. What a lovely surprise when I go to Chick-Fil-A and they actually smile and say, “My Pleasure”! Not “You’re welcome”. No “Thank you”. It is customary for Dan Cathy’s associates to let every one of their guests know that it was their pleasure to serve them. When a guest walks into a Moe’s they are enthusiastically greeted with a hearty “Welcome to Moe’s”! These are examples of a fast food and fast casual restaurant who haven’t forgotten to acknowledge their guests. And notice I call them guests, not customers. Guests are people that you invite into your home, and you would naturally treat them better. You take pride in your restaurant. Your place is cleaner, your employees are friendlier, and you truly care about your guests and the impression you leave with them. With customers, you will serve and they move along. Which experience is more memorable? But what happened to the customer service in a full service restaurant? I recently met with an advertising representative who was trying to sell me on a texting platform that would replace servers and extra bartenders. He added that when bars are so busy that people can’t get the attention of a bartender, they can text their drink order that will then be sent to a special printer. One person will be designated to watch that printer for orders to appear. Isn’t that great? No! If your restaurant or bar is so busy that you feel you need to implement a texting program solely to fill customers’ orders, you don’t have a shortage of technology, you have a shortage of staff! How many guests walk out the door because of your lack of attention and customer service? If you can designate one person to watch a printer, get him on the floor taking orders! And when was the last time you were actually greeted at the door by a hostess at a full service restaurant? Remember restaurateurs, these are your Directors of First Impressions. If I wanted to greet myself, seat myself, and hunt down my own beverages, I would have gone to a fast casual restaurant and saved about 30%. But I came to full service for the “service”. Where did it go? Can we make a pact to get back to creating memorable experiences? And can I have a side of customer service, please?

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to be witty in 160 characters or less: Or how Facebook and Twitter have made users become thoughtful “writers”.

I am one of those people who mentally correct people’s English when they are speaking, so often times I pay more attention to the context of a comment rather than the content. However, I have noticed that many of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers are probably taking a bit more care in formulating their thoughts to make their microblog stand out amongst the clutter of the rapidly scrolling wall of posts. And it made me think that I wished that some people put more thought into what they uttered out loud before they hit “send”. For those who only write once in a while, getting the nerve to write their thoughts and feelings in such a public forum can cause angst and pride at the same time. Some may edit and reread their post several times to make sure it sounds just right. Others are pros and it just flows naturally. But these newbies to the world of microblogging are trying to compete in an arena of natural born speakers with a silver tongue and clever wit. Give these astute writers a momentous event like an east coast earthquake or the death of despised world leader and they will scramble to their smart phones, iPads and laptops to quickly come up with the one post or Tweet that will stand out in hopes that it will go viral. Reading this stream of quips reminds me of an episode of Last Comic Standing. Let’s face it, we all have a shorter attention span because of the gross amounts of information we are bombarded with. I like to read the headlines of the news and if it grabs me, then I will delve into the story. The same is true for microblogging. If the post interests me, then maybe I will dig a little deeper and follow the stream to the person’s page or website for more information. I might even send a direct message with specific questions. But it’s great to be given the option of how much information I want to given. Which leads to another question, do people actually read other posts, or are they just on Facebook and Twitter to get their 15 minutes of fame amongst their friends and followers. I have seen people who are more concerned about the number of people who respond to their posts rather than the actual responses themselves, proving that they aren’t even reading the responses on their own wall, just looking at the number hoping it proves their popularity. For those who need this ego boost, I have news for you, content is king. Give people a reason to come back and have healthy conversations on their walls also. Sometimes you have to leave the “walls” of your wall to find your true friends. But where would we be without these little tidbits of information? Facebook and Twitter posts are still great ways to make announcements and share information. This is how I found out I was becoming an aunt again. I should probably respond to that post, but first I’ll think of something really clever to say about how I had to read about it on Facebook. Better yet, I think I’ll pick up the phone. How thoughtful.