Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tipping Point

Dear McMenamins:

By the time you read this, I will be gone. Although we tried to make it work, I just can’t spend any more time with you.

I always wanted to like you. I am proud that you make historic preservation a crucial part of your corporate brand. Modern buildings are sleek and cool, but I would rather hang out in one of your older building that has tons of character.

No, I’m not leaving you because your food and beer is mediocre (although it is). I never expected fine cuisine from you so that isn’t what drove us apart. As long as your service is efficient and friendly I can put up with average food and beer.

The reason I’m leaving is because your service is a ragged disappointment. Oh, I’ve tried to overlook it, but it happens too often. The fun has been sucked out of our “eat, drink, and have a good time” relationship.

Don’t you know? Great service is all about the experience! That’s what your customers remember!

(Customer service tip #1- Customer service is “90% good feelings and 10% solutions to your problems”)

I’ve quietly endured your lackluster service these last couple of years but my latest experience proved to be the proverbial “tipping point”. Customer service beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I can spot a pig when I see one!

Remember the last time we saw each other? My companion and I went to the Bagdad Theater last Sunday to have a beer and grab a quick snack. It was the Hawthorne Street Festival so it was a prime people-watching day. We ordered beers and french fries and sat back to enjoy the scene.

Now I know it was busy but surely you prepared for the expected crowds by increasing your staff and simplifying your menu? I am usually pretty patient but I expected our fries to arrive in a timely manner. I mean, how long can it take to fling a simple order of plain fries into the fat? Why would I think differently? We were never told there might be a bit of a wait.

(Customer service tip #2 – Always set proper customer expectations- especially for how long something will take)

As the clock ticked away, we watched and waited …….and waited ……and WAITED. No fries, no waiter. After 30 minutes, I finally managed to flag him down and gestured “where are our fries?” He looked dumbfounded and – staring at our empty table – he muttered incredulously “you don’t have your fries yet?” Which was a silly question because our table was conspicuously devoid of fries.

(Customer service tip #3 – Be attentive so you can spot a problem before your customers point it out to you)

Instead of going into “let me fix this problem for you” mode, our server immediately started making excuses. “It is very busy today”, “don’t you see all the people?”, and “the kitchen is backed up”.

(Customer service tip #4 – Acknowledge your customer’s frustration – it’s called empathy! Customers don’t want to hear excuses – just fix it)

In the end, we finally got our fries. And they were probably the worst fries (limp, greasy) I have had in recent memory. When we got our check, we paid and left. Our waiter never checked back in with us nor did he thank us for our business.

(Customer service tip #5 Act like you care and always thank your customer for something, show your appreciation for their business)

So can you understand why I am calling it quits with you now? Despite my admiration for your focus on historic preservation, it just isn’t enough anymore. I’ve reached my tipping point. Maybe time will dim my memories; if so, I’ll look you up. Even if food is not your forte; don’t skimp on your service!

It's too bad it had to end this way,

Anne B (aka Service Rox)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Service "going to the dogs" - brilliant!

I’ve been a Farmers Market fan for years. I love eating local and there is nothing like having a direct relationship with the farmer who takes such great pride in what they bring to market.

I’ve been a fan of the Lake Oswego Farmers Market since I moved here a couple of summers ago. It is everything a local market should be - close to home with high-quality and local fruits, veggies, cheese, nuts, meats, flowers, breads, and other assorted goodies.

It didn’t take me long to scope out “my” vendors – the German lady with the excellent lettuce, beans, and potatoes. The “Peaches People" who have the most excellent peaches, nectarines and cherries. Oh, and the mushroom lady! Not only does she have all kinds of different mushrooms, she is savvy enough to have a chef cook up different dishes to highlight all the tasty things possible with mushrooms and a little imagination.

But one of my favorite things about this market is not the food or the friendly vendors. It is seeing all of the happy dogs that are taken care of by the market's free Doggie Day Care service.

Located on a tree-lined street just outside the market, each dog gets their own shade tree, their own water bowl (labeled with their names), and plenty of tail-wagging love and attention from volunteers, kids, and market patrons.

Although I am more of a “cat person”, it makes me smile to see all the happy dogs on my way into the market. I can stop on my way in, pet them, and laugh at their doggie-cuteness. Before I even step into the market, I have a smile on my face and am in a good mood.

Unique even for dog-friendly Portland, the Lake Oswego Farmers Market is the only one (of approximately 80 Farmers Markets) to offer its customers free Doggie DayCare service.

How cool is that? Want to go to the market but don’t want to keep Fido cooped up at home? No problem! With their dogs happy and well taken care of, market patrons can leisurely browse the Farmers Market without the distraction of having to maneuver Fido (on a leash) through the crowd. Not only is this great for the dog-loving crowd, it works for everyone.

As cute as dogs are, not everyone appreciates having to mingle with them in crowded places, kids are sometimes scared of them and crowded markets are not so fun for dogs either.

Within the customer service realm, this is a great example of lateral thinking. Rather than go directly to the customer, why not provide excellent service to something or someone the customer cares about (family member, pet, car).

Your customers will perceive you as thoughtful and accommodating - especially when the service is provided for free.

Other examples of winning customers over with this type of lateral thinking include Ikea's complimentary child care service (drop off the kids while the parents shop) and restaurant valet parking.

In addition, it's a great strategy to eliminate barriers that prevent your customers from coming to you in the first place.

Normally the phrase "going to the dogs" means that things are sliding downhill. However, in the case of the Lake Oswego Farmers Market, "going to the dogs" is a brilliant customer service move!