Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Preemptive Fix is King


I've been in the field of customer service since I was thirteen years old.  I was hired to scoop ice cream at the local Esso the summer before grade nine.  Man ... did that give me nice 'ceps.  That's twenty-eight years to hone my skills of diplomacy, fairness, and the desire to please.

Unfortunately, time and years of experience don't really dull the sting that some unsatisfied or simply bitter customers can hit you with.  If anything, it can sour some people leaving them seeking factory work or the hopes of their own business.  While others are able to turn any frown upside down.  These people I love to watch.  I've learned so much from watching and listening to others.  I remember when working once for an at&t call centre that simple wording changes, or even alterations to your tone of voice can really effect how the customer or client perceives your words.

So as much as I push the bees n' honey type of customer service, I notice lately that IF I get annoyed during a work shift, it's harder to pull myself back to the sweetness.  It's like a hangover takes longer to recover from, if my mood gets soured, my tips reflect it, and my stewing confirms it.

So I've learned and can give you several examples of situations where a simple, preemptive fix to a problem you KNOW is on it's way, can make a world of difference in your day.  For instance, I used to work the drive thru window at a local coffee giant.  This one lady would come through every single day in the afternoon after she picked up her mail.  She always brought her big, lazy golden retriever Maggie along for the ride, and she always bought herself a large hot cappuccino that she would take home and drink after dinner while she watched the news.

Even before I was trained on drive thru I knew this lady was a 'problem'.  Every single day she had the same complaint.  A complaint that held up the drive thru line, slowing down our speed.  When I started on drive thru and I served this lady from order speaker to pick up window, I realized and was faced with the same issue that everyone else faced, every afternoon.

You see, the hot cappuccino machine makes a lot of foam.  Foam is a big part of the cappuccino experience, but by the time this lady removed the lid of that beverage, all of that foam was gone and it looked like someone took a gulp!  So each day, she would take off the lid, check the level and ask us to top it up.  It only took me one time, to recognize her voice and simply ensure that the level was right up to the top and oozing out the steam hole.  She loved me ... and threw us many tips over the months I worked there.  From that simple effort of giving her what she wanted before she even asked, fixed the problem.  My co-workers started doing the same thing, and she soon simply trusted that it was filled.  It was a proud moment for me to be honest.  To see my younger co-workers giggle at how nice she really could be by simply showing they cared.

The second example I have, is something I just started at my newest bartending job.  I serve food and alcohol but depending on the crowd, and as the night progresses, I might as well be a water distribution clerk.  After a while, it just pisses me off.  We use plastic cups that I freeze water in the bottom of, and don't really want to sacrifice for a customer who's drinking water.  That sounds shitty, but nobody likes their rye and coke without ice.  And then again, I'm faced with the guilt of making them pay $2 for a bottle that if they don't take home with them, will definitely not get recycled there.
So I've started filling two pitchers of ice and water with a stack of cups and set it up at the end of the bar.  Preemptive fix.  The only time I have to spend precious time on the water, is to refill a pitcher. And people just like it.  I mean, we're lucky in Canada to have potable drinking water.  It almost seems illogical that so many of us buy bottled water.  The road to animal extinction and environmental sterility will be lined with plastic water bottles.

Finally, the last example is also one that I've just recently started doing.  When people come up to order food, I spend a little extra time offering them options.  It annoys the cook in me when someone has a complaint about my food.  I think that's natural and understandable, so now I ask people a few Q's.

If you order fries, would you like them crispy?
If you order a hot dog, would you like it microwaved or deep-fried? (ya I know... grody)
If you order a hamburger, would you like the bun grilled?
If you order the sad smoked meat, would you like it on a sesame seed bun, or rye bread?

Showing you care, not only reflects in your relationship with your customer, in your gratuities at the end of the shift, but also in your karma.  I mean it, being told that what you cooked was delicious, is a good feeling for those of us who prepare your food.  And if that something was as sad an option as a hot dog, well that's even more awesome!

Years ago, I didn't know this trick and I admit I may have engaged in passive aggressive juvenile ponderings when it came to certain customers.  Some customers simply seem to feel entitled to better service, and it feeds a need to conquer to be able to annoy them.  LOL that's the old me, not the now me.

Nowadays, I don't have time for silly things to give me grey hair.  Our governments and the state of our planet is enough on it's own.  So I try to see ways like those I mentioned above, to go the extra mile that will save me from wasting distance down the road.  Regardless of what we're selling, customer service is crucial.  If interacting with you is a pain in a customer's ass, or an aggravation they don't need, they'll go somewhere else.  But in my experience, if you show them you recognize their needs and care about their happiness, they'll reward you will years of patronage and beneficial word-of-mouth advertising.