Basic skills are being lost in our society and I’m not quite sure how to feel about it.
That’s what I came to realize most recently after ordering a simple cup of tomato soup.
Before expanding on the soup story it’s important for me to share the sadness of the loss of business as we know it. Each morning as of late it seems as if I turn on the radio to hear of more store closures and bankruptcy protection.
While I would love to think that many large businesses are closing due to a shift in support of small, local business I know that’s simply a pipe dream. The fear I had a decade ago is now seeing fruition – we are putting ourselves out of work.
Now in the day of on-line banking, bill pay and shopping, visiting the buildings which host people to help us with such things are becoming less needed. Heck we don’t even need to get out of our car to grocery shop any longer. Have a smart phone? Then you have groceries – brought by mail in some areas of the country or out to your car in our part of the Central Valley.
So as I realize this, it’s easy to see how customer service and modeling it may be falling to the wayside.
The reality however is, modeling customer service in a service industry is what will keep customers returning. We all have bad days, any rational thinking human knows that but there’s a limit.
This brings me back to my tomato soup and the disappointment I faced at a business I’ve frequented for close to two decades as I was helped by a (new to me) service person.
The soup I had ordered happened to be on the daily special menu, which had not been shared when I called inquiring what soups were being served. Long story short as I (defeatedly) opted for the standard soup of the day, a senior staffer intercepted the transaction and (in my opinion) made it right.
But this, “is what it is”/void in service flexibility I first encountered has truly seemed to become commonplace in businesses which were founded not just on good food, but good service.
Sadly, I feel we’re surrounded by it more times than not and the people on the front line just don’t know what to do when faced with displeasure or disappointment in a customer. The tools just don’t seem to be being taught any longer.
On a separate occasion, this happened when out for a nice dinner celebrating with family most recently. My guy and I were out with family at a Modesto eatery we happen to enjoy, which was a first for our company.
Certain things were lacking that night, which we both recognized was due to a lack of staffing – that’s not a server’s fault. Nor is a poor meal, which can also happen on occasion and in this case (much to our disappointment) did.
Our guest had ordered something specific from the menu (as did my guy) however once partaking in the meal they each recognized the food was not as it was represented on the menu. Our guest voiced his confusion to the server, who then spoke with the chef.
Long story short, once again, the answer she returned with did not satisfy our guest and he did not finish eating his meal. There was no offer made to try to bring something else, comp the celebratory desserts we had ordered for the couple out for a special night or even simply comp the dinner on a bill which was a couple of Benjamins plus.
As we drove home, separate of our company, my mind raced with confusion as my guy and I each shared how we felt it should have been handled. For me it was simple, when you have returning customers bringing prospective new customers who are celebrating an occasion, if something is wrong you make it right. On a bill of several hundred dollars, comping a $30 meal will not hurt the business.
Actually as crazy as it is, not comping a $30 meal may have the adverse effect, our guests won’t be back. Their impression tainted by the lack of quick service and dismissal of his unhappiness with his meal.
Customer service must be taught to a level where employees feel both empowered and confident in assessing situations and making decisions. We’ve lost this in my humble opinion and before too long we will see these types of businesses closing as well.
Now before the letters start coming informing me how I have no idea, I’ll share this. My career started in the service business. Well, “career” is a stretch, but my first high school job was working for the Colonel asking “regular or crispy” and “would you like honey with your biscuits” – some things you don’t forget.
I share this because I know the scorn of an unhappy customer. I also know that not everyone can be satisfied by what you offer, if you do attempt. Most importantly I know, as well as remember one of the number one things I was taught; people have choices.
So that’s my fear. As we continue to shop on-line and live through convenience, which is actually pretty awesome on many fronts human interaction is still important as humans. As customer service declines so too will be the desire, well … to “go out.”
The point of this? I’m honestly not sure. What I am sure of, is I still have a place to get a cup of soup and the next time my guy and I treat friends out for a nice dinner it more likely than not will not be a chic “café” on the border of Modesto.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.