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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Customer Service - Are We Focused On The Right Things?

The majority of our new business has always come from word of mouth advertising.  A customer tells a friend, the friend tells a friend, etc, etc....  We are extremely fortunate that this is the case, and we realize this positive word of mouth advertising can just as easily turn negative if we disappoint our customers.  So we try very hard to treat them right.  

We always try to under-promise and over-deliver, and we try to treat customers the way we like to be treated.  I think all businesses TRY to do this.  But it amazes me how many fail.  

For instance...

An old friend and I decided we should get together for a few drinks at a local bar.

I arrived about ten minutes early.  The place was empty except for a bartender washing some glasses and a waitress picking songs on a jukebox.  

Without turning to face me, the waitress yelled something at me as I walked in.  I’m not sure what she said because she yelled it into the jukebox, but I guessed it was something like “SIT ANYWHERE YOU WANT”.  So I sat down at a window booth and opened my notebook to jot down a few thoughts.

The waitress came over and cheerfully asked what I’d like to drink.  I told her I’d take a Windsor-Coke.  She said “Great, it’s happy hour so I can get you two”.  I planned to sip those drinks and I didn't like the thought of the ice melting into my second drink.   So I asked her if I could get the first now and the second later.  She cheerfully said she would check.

She went to the bartender, came back drink-less, and told me “I’m sorry, you have to take both drinks now”.  Since that was the case I told her I’d rather wait to have the drinks after my friend arrived.  In the meantime I’d take a Diet Coke.  

She left and quickly returned with a glass of ice and brown liquid.  After the initial sip I suspected this was the worst Diet Coke ever.  For some reason, a few seconds later I followed up with a more cautionary sip just to confirm.  Yep, no doubt, THE WORST DIET COKE EVER.  It was flat without a single bubble of carbonation, it was warm, and gross.  

My friend soon arrived and asked what I was drinking.  I told him anything but the rest of that Diet Coke.  We decided to take advantage of the 2 for 1 deal and get a couple of Jim Beams - one on the rocks and one straight up.  The waitress took our order, left, and again returned drink-less - to tell us the drinks had to be identical.  Both drinks must HAVE ICE or NOT HAVE ICE.  We couldn't’ believe she actually said that.  But she quickly convinced us she was serious by saying “Look, if the drinks are not the same they can’t keep track of who has what”.  

Then I spied a huge sign above the bartender that said “BUCKET OF FIVE BEERS - ONLY $13”.   We agreed that sounded good so we told the waitress to bring us the bucket.  She left and quickly returned bucket-less to cheerfully tell us she’s sorry but the bucket deal was only available during Minnesota Twins games (even though that was not on the sign).  The Twins game had just finished, so they couldn’t give us the bucket of beer.

At that point my friend and I decided we could both have Jim Beam WITH ice.

We talked about how many customer service let-downs the bar had made since I walked in:
  1. They greeted me by yelling into a jukebox
  2. They refused to bring me half of a 2 for 1 now, and half later
  3. The Diet Coke SUCKED
  4. They refused to let us have the special on the sign because the Twins game was done
  5. They refused to put ice into one drink but not the other 

Maybe they saved some money by serving crappy Diet Coke, and maybe they saved some money by not giving us the bucket of beer after the game - MAYBE - but the rest wouldn’t have cost them a dime to treat us the way we wanted to be treated.  

My friend suggested we tell the owner about the poor customer service we received.  He was convinced that no owner of a business could approve of these stupid rules and this poor service.  

So the next time the waitress came around he asked her if the owner was in.  She said “Yep, he’s the bartender and these are his rules.  Do you want to talk to him”?  We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and said “nah, never-mind”.  

We then decided to have a second Jim Beam, both WITH ice, and decided we’d probably never come back.  

As I finish describing this experience, I can’t help but wonder if the owner THOUGHT he was providing good customer service.  After all, the place was clean, nicely lit, and had good atmosphere.  The waitress was pleasant, she addressed me as soon as I came in, she came to our table quickly, and always had a smile.  The drinks had a generous pour and the prices were very reasonable.  The owner may have THOUGHT they provided great customer service. 

I also can't help but wonder if we ever let down our customers like this here at Aladtec.  I sure hope we don’t. But if we do, please let me know.  I’d love to have the chance to TRY to make it right. 

Dave Feyereisen
Aladtec Inc.
Direct Phone:  715.690.2305

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