Monday, October 24, 2011

That’s My Job, Too

Have you ever been in an altercation?  If so, were you aware of it?

This is a customer service problem that happened to me over a year ago in a popular local coffee shop.  Well, what’s even more popular than the location or the brand is the “popularity” the employees feel for each other, which takes precedence over any pretense of working.  And it appears that was learned by example from management.

I walked into the store one day to order a treat, and the manager called me aside.  He told me that I had been in an altercation, and he wanted to know what had happened.  It was a surprise to me.  I thought “altercation" meant a fistfight, and I was sure I hadn't been in one of those.  I had no damage; I’d done no damage.  (When I got home and looked in the dictionary, I learned that an "altercation” is just a disagreement.  Whew!)  I asked him to clarify what he was talking about, and he said that he couldn't because it was confidential.  And yet he pressed me for more details about this dramatic incident I had no recollection of. 

All I could think was that when my friend Ken and I had coffee there recently, we had moved someone’s book so we could sit down; it turned out the person was "saving a place” and was very blunt in telling us so.  I called Ken on my cell phone to ask him if he was aware that we had been involved in an altercation, but he was not.  The manager then told me that this was not the incident he was referring to.

I wracked my brain, but honestly, I couldn’t recall anything, and that if he couldn’t “give me a hint,” then I wouldn’t be able to help him.  He gave me a hint: it had to do with “multi-tasking.”  Oh, THAT altercation!

I had gone into the store a week earlier and ended up in line behind some young big-mouth gal who had the hots for one of the male store employees (off duty at the moment), and had evidently been dumped by him and was seeking information/ consolation from his roommate, who worked at the store, and every other store employee she could get to listen to her.  She bogarted the counter space and the female Barista was so enthralled that she neglected my drink.  Keep in mind, Big Mouth was not a paying customer. 

This goes back to what I said in my first draft of the book, “No Problem,” advice to business owners who don't want to make a profit:

When there is a customer in front of your store clerk, and the phone rings, make that phone call the priority.  Remember, the live customer is a PAYING CUSTOMER.  The caller is a POTENTIAL CUSTOMER.  This is a customer-service no-brainer.  The paying customer has already decided to buy, so let him wait while you answer every question the price-shopper wants to know.  This will attract more “potential customers” to your store.

I finally commented to the Barista that most people cannot multi-task, even though they think they can.  Although she stopped the gabfest and made my drink, she was so offended that she went to the manager and complained about me.  Hence, the interrogation.  (I guess he was deciding if he should banish me from the store).  The manager was quite surprised when I laid out the scenario for him and identified the employees involved.

And what do you think he did then? He asked me if I would continue to report inappropriate employee conduct to him on a regular basis, to help him with his job.  I sadly note that he did not offer to pay me for this.

(c) 2011, Elena E. Smith, all rights reserved

Art of Complaining

Is there an art to complaining?  I have read a few articles that would suggest that there is.  But, face it, who likes to be on the receiving end of a complaint?  And who enjoys the constant whine of the chronic complainer?  (You can all put your hands down, now).

In a previous BLOG, entitled “Thanks, Frank,” I complained about the service I received from a local business.  I would now like to report on the results of that incident.  As it turned out, the complainees (those whom I complained about) called it to the attention of the store owner, and when I returned to pick-up my order, he was there to greet me.  He told me that he completely understood my position, that I would never have to worry about a problem like that again in his store, and that if I ever received less-than-top-notch service, I was to call him on his direct number.  Whoa, did I get that right?  Let me turn up my hearing aid!  I think I hear music… music to my ears, that is.

I am still getting a little residual high over the sense of vindication I received from this business owner (and yes, generationally we are in the same age group).

But, does it really pay to complain?  For me, it is a bit of a mission, or a cause.  I have concluded that most businesses these days no longer have a trainer on staff, or even a lower-level supervisor (at some companies, everyone gets the title of supervisor, no matter what their job duties are!  It’s probably in lieu of adequate pay).  So, in a sense, when I must correct someone for inappropriate behavior, I am filling the role of unpaid corporate trainer.  I have to say, there is a part of me that considers this a worthy role.  Because, IMHO, if I don’t tell them, who will?  I make my living in commission sales, and as unpleasant as it is to hear gripes from unhappy customers, if they don’t tell me they weren’t satisfied, they will probably tell ten of their friends, and that will hurt my income far more than their compliant(s) will hurt my feelings. 

I do not like criticism --- nobody does --- but I also know that when someone feels comfortable enough to tell me they have a complaint or objection, they are giving me an opportunity to fix the problem, and if I succeed with that opportunity, then more opportunities will come my way.

(c) 2011, Elena E. Smith, all rights reserved