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Service these days

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I have come to the conclusion that most of us accept average, and even poor, service.

How many times have you had an issue during a meal dining out and not bothered to complain or correct the issue? Maybe you don’t want to be any trouble. Perhaps you fear the cook will put a little “something” on your re-cook and the thought of that compels you to settle for what has been placed in front of you. And even on the way out of the restaurant, if the hostess asks if everything was O.K., you say “just fine” and leave it at that because you believe they won’t/can’t do anything about it anyway.

We market Tumbleweed and one of our successful efforts for 2007/08 was our idea to create TellTumbleweed where the customer can share their dining experience, good or bad. It has been amazing the response we continue to receive. We ran a series of ads featuring the CEO asking folks to “try” the restaurant and let him know how things went. His genuine interest in the customers’ experiences brought people back in who may have “given up”. Some folks reported they had never even tried the place and because of the commercial, they went there for the first time. Others used the site to vent about an over seasoned steak or a less than WOW server. And Tumbleweed responded to each and every one of the comments posted to the site, carrying the message to the area directors, store managers, operations and the employees. It was a level of accountability that made me feel great about marketing our client.

The worst thing a business can do is spend money on a great ad campaign, get the folks in the door and then fail to deliver fantastic product and service. Nothing travels faster than a bad experience. The old adage is that you’ll tell ten people about the bad time and 2-3 if it was a great time.

I travel a fair amount and recently had the worst airline experience ever. USAirways cancelled two flights to Louisville—back to back, on a busy spring break weekend, at their Charlotte hub due to “maintenance issues”. The ACC Basketball championship happened to be in town so hotel rooms were at a premium, and USAirways had no solutions for the few hundred families and college kids left stranded. They put everyone on “stand by” for a 10pm flight that was also cancelled for “maintenance issues” and were telling folks that it may be days before they would be able to find an open seat on a flight to their destination.

I over heard numerous conversations where folks had very little money left to deal with a situation like this and the level of frustration escalated so high at one point–with a young man–that the ticket agent walked away and brought back two police officers to ensure the customer contained his aggravation. He was embarrassed and obviously stressed by the predicament. And USAirways had no solutions. I could not believe that in their home city, the company did not have a backup plan to help all the customers they displaced.

They could have stepped up sooner and communicated what they were doing and how they were going to help everyone, added more agents and perhaps a few flights, offered to pay for rental cars for those who had to get home so badly that they rented a car and drove to their destination. They could have set up a bus to take people to a hotel who had a bank of rooms and pre-paid the bill. Provided some sandwiches and water to many who were hungry and tired and could not afford a $10 airport burger. They should have had a plan or system in place for dealing with these occasions so their customers would feel like they were making an effort.

You know we are all human and we make mistakes from time to time. I think most people understand that. It is how you deal with those errors that can make or break the experience. If my steak is over seasoned, the re-cook should be addressed immediately and delivered promptly by the manager with a sincere apology. If my flight is cancelled, an agent should have several options for me to get where I am going. It’s not like we all don’t know when spring break happens each year.

I am tired of settling for average. I don’t want to just be “satisfied” when I have an experience. Or even worse, dissatisfied and feeling the company doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

I want to be WOW’d when I pay for something. I want to feel great about my purchase. And I don’t want to pay a little more for it either. I want SERVICE PLUS. I want to share with people the good times, the best place to get this or that, to be a positive influence.

I have often thought about starting my own shopper service because of how strongly I feel about this subject. When I get a new client I always visit their stores or sign up for the experience they offer –and I do it anonymously. I ask around to find out if other people I know have anything to share about them. I want to know how they operate. How they treat their customers. What their systems and policies are like. If their people are happy and well informed. Because again, the worst thing we can do is market a bad product or service.

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