You are the brand!

I’m on my soap box again.  I have suffered through another customer service disaster.  I actually paid a restaurant for an order I didn’t place and abysmal service.  I only have myself to blame.  I made the choice to go inside.

This morning I couldn’t sleep.  I finally gave up the ghost at 4:30, got up, showered and dressed.  I packed for work and headed to the local “always open” greasy spoon.  I wanted a hot breakfast and I wanted table service.

The place was almost empty.  I like that.  It usually ensures good service along with some peace and quiet.  It allows you to eat slowly and have a second cup of coffee.  The lack of noise makes it possible to think and organize things in your mind.  Once again…I like that.

What I got, instead, was a waitress that couldn’t wait for the day shift to arrive.  Our introduction started with her plight.  She asked me to be patient while she totaled the ticket for the only other person in the restaurant.  Ten minutes later she returned pad in hand.

I placed my order.  She turned to the cook and recited some dialect I didn’t recognize.  It sounded something like “cheese two all, out with bacon, raisin on one.” The kid with the spatula corrected her instructions.  They argued and she walked to the back.  I never saw her again.

About that time, a whole crew of employees entered.  There were two managers, a new cook and four waitresses.  If you include the original two there were nine employees in the restaurant.  None of them seemed to notice the other customer and myself.

My coffee never came.  Neither did my ice water.  All of the seven reporting to work poured themselves coffee.  But mine…it just didn’t seem important.

The cook finished my order.  He shouted some code language to the loitering employees but nobody seemed to react.  I’m sure it was intended to let them know my food was ready.

Finally, one of the waitresses picked up the plate.  “Who does this belong to,” she asked.  I raised my hand.  I was the only customer in the restaurant by this time so I’m confused by the question.

The order was wrong.  I took it anyway and was glad to get it.  My coffee never came.  I drank water and told myself I was being healthy.  I ate as fast as I could, paid and left immediately after my last bite.

I never expect stellar service from this chain of restaurants.  I eat there, on occasion, when I want a specific type of food or convenience.  There is one of these establishments on every expressway exit.

When I decide to go there I accept the fact that the food will be pretty good, mostly what I ordered with “colorful” service.  In other words, I prepare myself for the experience in advance.  I lower my expectations in some areas before I ever enter the restaurant.

What does that have to do with us?  Why is Bill making fun of a national favorite?  What does this have to do with what we do?

Here goes!  What do customers do before they call you?  Do they lower their expectations or do they expect more because it’s you?  Do they take a Valium before they give you an order or do they relax because they know they have the best there is on the job?  Which is it?

You see, the answer tells us everything.  If they are making a sacrifice when they dial your number you can bet they are beating a deal out of you on price.  If they cringe every time they have to talk to you, you’re are on borrowed time.  They will replace you with a better and more service focused supplier as soon as they can.

Everything you do communicates the brand that is you…personally.  If you’re prompt with responses, the client knows you’re paying attention.  If your facts are correct, you won’t put them in the position of backtracking in their own communications.  If your work is first class, they will never have to explain their decision to hire you.

It goes the other way if you’re casual.  It doesn’t matter how loveable you might be.  If you’re late to appointments, arrive with portions of what you promised and sloppy with facts, you’re making extra work for the customer.  If you expect them to forgive mistakes because you and your company are good people, you’re fooling yourself.  They know they’re taking on a measure of risk every time they dial your number…assuming they dial your number.

People don’t lower their standards or expectations for long.  Think about your own buying behavior.  You eat at the restaurant along the freeway when it is the only choice or when you’re in the mood for a very specific thing.

Most days you prefer better.  You make it yourself or you patronize a more service focused establishment.  You buy where you get your money’s worth.

Excited and committed people deliver exceptional service.  Excited and committed people are also where the best ideas come from.  These employees care about what they are doing and truly want to make a difference.  They want to learn and they want to help every tool succeed.  They don’t spend time complaining and waiting on the “day shift” to arrive.  They help.  They’re easy to work with too.  Excited people excite customers.  Let me say that again…EXCITED PEOPLE EXCITE CUSTOMERS!

The people at the restaurant with questionable service were all tolerating work.  It showed.  I will certainly go back…but not for a while.  Most of the time, I insist on better.  I gladly pay more to get better service.  I want my dining experience to be about me and my meal…not about some unhappy waitress.

The same thing goes for your clients…you can bet on it!  Think about that and remember, you are the brand!



Customer Focus (#39) Customer Focus Series by Bill Gillespie 2007, All Rights Reserved.