By Jon Swanson
Nancy and I went out for supper. Because we had a free birthday burger at Red Robin, that’s where we went. Ryan, our server, was great. He was friendly at a volume which didn’t include other tables. He answered food questions thoughtfully, even providing a caution about what often happens in cooking the turkey burger. He treated us as if we hadn’t ordered just water, and as if half the bill wasn’t going to be free. It was a nice evening.
The next morning, I took the van for an oil change. Being near my birthday, I had a coupon for half-off the regular price.
I was greeted at the van door by one employee, who walked me to the waiting room, pointing out the TV, fresh coffee, and magazines and telling me how long before Mike would talk with me. As I sat working, another employee brought another customer and pointed out the TV, fresh coffee, and magazines and told her how long before Mike would talk with her.
Mike came and got me, took me to the computer in the service area, and began walking me through all the options, just like always. He read them from the screen that we both could see. At one point, when I waved my hand at the screen and said, “I know,” he whispered, “they cover everything.” We finished that part of the process and he said, “I’ll take you back to the waiting area.” Having just walked the 6 feet myself, I said, “I’m fine.” He whispered, “I have to.” Before I left, there was much more of the script, complete with smiles and “how did we do” and “does everything look fine?” Five guys in the place, all using the same script book.
I am convinced that both Mike and Ryan are nice guys. I am convinced that both Mike and Ryan work for companies that want to get customers to come back. I am convinced that both companies have created training that research somewhere has suggested.
What I saw, however, is that one script allows the person’s personality to emerge and be part of the service. The other script only allows the personality to emerge as a critique of the service.
This oil change place hasn’t always been this way. They used to be friendly. Now they are programmed.
I like the old way.
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Jessica Swanson says
What a great post Jon! Customer service is such an important part of small business success…and it’s just a shame that more businesses don’t do what it takes to bring their customers back! (And, in addition get a constant flow of referrals.)
I get my oil changed at that place! A perfect description. Interestingly both places probably face similar staffing challenges.
Every time I walk into my bank, they all say “Welcome to Our Bank!” It’s usually 4 or 5 people and they do it even if I’m on the phone or talking to the person I’m with but I have to stop and respond or else I’m rude. That’s not friendly; it’s annoying.
Oh my, anonymous. You have hit on a huge issue with forced enthusiasm. If we indiscriminately speak to nice people, we trigger their “not wanting to be rude” nerve. And that helps no one.
The rule obviously is “say hi to everyone that walks in.” It could be changed to say, “look at everyone who walks in. When they are free to talk, greet them.” Greeting is different than saying hi.
That is so true..there is a difference. They should know that we the consumers can tell the difference. Someone should let Disney know so those employees stop saying “Have a magical day” with that huge fake smile that looks like it is going to kill them. You can almost hear them saying “I can’t say it one more time or I am going to go insane!” Just let people say “Hi” or “Welcome” “Whatsup?” or something real. :)
Amber Cleveland says
Great points! Organizations need to find balance that creates consistency from a brand perspective, but that doesn’t take out the “Human” element. It isn’t personalized if every person hears the same thing every time. People realize that, why don’t corporations?
Hopefully, companies will consider dialing back a notch, hiring people that can think for themselves (esp. on how to greet a customer) and base attitudes/behaviors internally on solid mission/vision/values.
Dan Perez says
A restaurant server who’s working for tips and an employee at an oil change establishment. Two totally different motivations to deliver good service – you’re comparing apples to oranges. In the end, you got good service at both places…hooray! You should try living here in Miami – You’d think Mike was Alfred Pennyworth.