Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Customer service faux pas

Customer service skills are required in today’s workforce as never before. In fact, it is a rare occupation in today’s 21st century world that doesn’t utilize some of the key customer service skills that are essential for quality customer interaction, as well as satisfaction. While technology often gets the press and is lauded, I’m more inclined to go with the human element, when weighting work skills for future success. The following story, which gets played out each and every day, is far too common.

Two days ago, in need of a mid-afternoon caffeine boost, I stopped by a local coffee chain that is very well known and has a famous culinary spokesperson doing commercials for them. I waited in line, ready to order my standard medium coffee, cream only. In front of me was a young woman who was attempting to acquire a latte, which the counterperson for this national chain wasn't aware that they offered. Obviously struggling with the task at hand, he asked the customer several questions pertaining to ingredients and the type of container that it came in. Unfortunately, the very patient customer had never ordered a latte at this establishment, but knew she wanted it hot; the employee seemed to think it was a cold drink, with ice, which the customer politely, but firmly said wasn’t what she wanted and didn’t think that’s what it should be.

Finally, for all of our sakes (or so I thought), a very efficient co-worker came along to bail out this gentleman struggling with the task at hand. She proceeded to lambast him verbally, in front of the young lady and I, rudely saying to him, “how long have you worked here? You should know how to make a latte by now!” She also scolded him for using the wrong cup size.

Rather than dress down this embarrassed young man, who I felt sorry for (for a variety of reasons, not the least being his obvious lack of work skills), she should have smiled at the customer wanting the latte and apologized for her inconvenience, as she had been waiting for more than five minutes. Additionally, I was being inconvenienced and while someone did step forward to take my order, there was no acknowledgement of a very sorry exhibition of customer service.

While I enjoy this chain’s brand of coffee, I can’t commend their customer service. This isn’t the first time that their customer service has been less than satisfactory. On the other hand, I’ve never had a bad experience with one of their coffee competitors, Starbucks.

Their baristas are friendly, efficient and always committed to making sure that customers leave satisfied. While some choose to criticize the multinational chain about fair-trade policies, labor practices and other issues, in my opinion, their coffee is good (albeit a bit pricey) and their service has always been exemplary in my presence.

Note of interest: Starbucks shut down all of its nearly 7,100 national stores for three hours, last night, in order for employees to receive retraining. In Chicago (and possibly elsewhere), Dunkin’ Donuts handed out free small hot lattes in all of its 450 Chicagoland stores. I wonder if their workers knew how to make them?

1 comment:

g2bn2wn said...

Poor Guy (employee). I believe every employee should be trainined in customer service skills regardless of their actual function. CS skills, and particularly listening and communication, are needed or used in all aspects of our lives. Relationship building, whether with coworkers, supervisors, vendors, the public or any other entity demands one be able to listen and communicate effectively. My question back to you is "what did you do about it?" Did you say anything to the employee doing the scolding? Unfortunately if you did not, I suspect nothing will change. This poses another question. "Should we as customers use these opportunities to point out poor customer service?" I think we have a right and an obligation to speak up when such situations occur as I think people should know when their actions/behaviors impact us as consumers in a negative way. Use the comment card, speak to a manager or selct some other avenue but do not be silenced.