• Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Well done is better than well said

    More words of wisdom from Benjamin Franklin. And no truer words have been spoken. Isn't it odd how few companies, restaurants, service providers get the importance of how they treat the people that enable their very existence?

    Christoper Carfi whose focus is helping companies "get it" offers a clever alternate headline to my Confessions piece. His suggestion: “Local Woman Starves While Waiting for Carryout”. I like it. As you may recall, the story was based on my traumatic customer service experience with a food delivery service.

    Reading his post about life wasted on hold reminded me of a few customer service traumas of late…

    From Cinco de Mayo:
    Just how bad is my Spanish? I thought Cinco de Mayo commemorated a courageous battle and translated to Fifth of May. Apparently, it means: "four managers to one waiter." Who knew? At least I got the cinco right.

    The night was one of those early summer evenings that draws you to the waterfront. We met our friends for a drink at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Lucky enough to score a table outside, literally on the water, we settled into watch the sunset and share a couple of drinks.

    We asked if we could pull a few chairs around the table and order some food and drinks. We waited. One person in our party got up to ask for service. Eventually, a manager came by to see if everything was good. We asked for someone to take our order. We asked for water. J. was getting nervous as C. was getting really hungry. I, as usual, was thirsty. I ordered a margarita in honor of the holiday.

    We waited. Another manager. Another wait. Another manager brought some of the food. We asked for our water. Another manager or server brought some of the rest of the order. We asked again for water. Eventually, we gave up. Then the water came.

    I wonder if that second margarita was eventually delivered to the new customers at that table.

    From a recent trip to Miami:
    Two concurrent observations in South Beach:
    1. service is nearly uniformly bad in even the best restaurants, and

    2. a service charge is almost always included in the bill.

    I had the same observation in Las Vegas, even at fabulous restaurants we ran into appalling service. The thing these two destinations share is this: without any effort at all, both locales will always draw customers. Does that mean they feel no need to cultivate return business? In a few places, they understand the fallacy of that assumption and pay attention to improving service. Too few, in my opinion.

    At one point, in South Beach my husband had to physically leave the table to find our waiter inside the restaurant (doing side work, it turned out.) He told the server we were ready to order, and the guy actually took out his pad, right there. We got him back to the table so the rest of the party could order, too.

    Our group, full of service industry types (restaurant owners, bartenders, frequent customers) had a lively debate – does the fact of not striving for tips create poor service? Is it included as in other tourist hot-spots to compensate for the International travelers who aren’t used to tipping? Is it appropriate to cross out the suggested, included tip? What do you think?

    A Bank of “Higher Standards”? Just how low was the bar to begin with?
    Over the past few days I tried in vain to dispute a charge on my BOA account. About 20 people, over four hours, misdirected my call, misinformed me, made me queue and wait yet again, only to find I was speaking to the wrong person, again. All the while, I had to listen to the new motto. Apparently, they’re now “the Bank of Higher Standards.”

    After a while, I began telling each successive (wrong person) about the number of minutes I had been on hold, and how absolutely insulting the motto came to feel. In case anyone really cared. Call it a big, fat deposit in the bank of irony.

    For other customer service related stories see:
    • Revelations and Mysteries for an experience at a great specialty gourmet store that prides itself on treating customers like friends. Oops.

    • And, I share observations on the relationships of servers/bartenders to customers. I include the insight offered by an obtuse and unethical CEO as well as insights offered your favorite erudite barfly and writer (me) in
      I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.

    What are your worst customer service stories?
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    Blogger Michael said...

    This is my most recent terrible customer service story. I think there are some people that simply don't belong in the service industry. In reference to your recent banking woes, having been a former employee of the very institution about which you write, I can tell you that you just don't have enough money for them to worry about you. BOA doesn't give a rat's @$$ about average joes, only rich individuals and companies.

    8:59 AM  
    Blogger JacquelineC said...

    Love the Martisa's story. Did you read my Miami Gourmet experience?

    5:53 PM  
    Blogger Michael said...

    Yep. Odd ending for what seemed like such a great experience to that point. As of late, we have been enjoying the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer's Market over by in Annapolis. We go pretty much every weekend we are home. The veggies and meat are fresher, tastier and in most cases cheaper than the grocery store. Well worth the 20 or so minute trip.

    9:55 AM  

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