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