Quality of service often overlooked

By Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

One of the greatest ways to end the old year, or begin the new, is to be handed a column idea that really works by someone who doesn’t even know they are doing it. So I would like to extend a big thank you to the hostess in a local restaurant.

Yes, thank you for being rude, not concerned about customers, and not even bothering to listen to what you were being told. By choosing to argue with my wife, who was just trying to make a point, you gave me a column on customer service.

We had a coupon which, by the way it was worded, implied that beverage was included in the coupon offer, so long as the whole tab was under ten dollars. Please understand that the issue was not a free beverage — we are not that cheap. My wife was simply trying to get the hostess to understand, after the fact, that the wording was confusing.

After balking for several minutes about showing Janice the initial coupon, on which the confusing words were located, the hostess proceeded to argue with her about the issue. This, I am sure, made a fine impression on the other patrons who were patiently waiting to pay their tabs.

If one is working in a service industry, it is probably good to remember two things:

1. Service jobs (which broadly includes nearly everything) depend on the customer for success. People will choose where to use their disposable income, and if they are treated rudely at your establishment, their business will go elsewhere.

2. If you do not like your job well enough to put your best face forward, give it up. Someone else will gladly take it. Go on welfare, sit around all day watching TV and drinking sodas. Someone with more pride in doing the job will benefit both the business owner and the public.

As a consumer, I can think of no better words than the seven which I have found to magically change attitudes: “May I please speak to your supervisor ?”

Quality of service is, increasingly, both important and overlooked. The overlooking is not done by the owner, the manager, the supervisor. These people realize that they are in a competitive market, and that customer service is a vital factor. It is the counter clerk, the server, the person who cannot make the direct connection between keeping customers happy and his/her own paycheck.

Large businesses have failed because employees failed to make that connection. Witness the downfall of the steel industry, circa 1980’s.

Every time I go to my radiation oncologist, and yes, patients are consumers, I know that I will have to wait beyond my appointment time. It doesn’t bother me, simply because I know that the reason for the delay, with this particular doctor, is that he is giving his best attention to some other patient. I also know that when I have my checkup, he will be completely focused on that, for however long it takes.

When I worked for Penney’s, back when Penney’s sold hardware and sporting goods, I always figured that the customer I was waiting on deserved the best of my time and advice. If they had to wait a little longer because I was helping someone else, I should make it worth their wait by knowing what I was talking about when their turn did come.

That defines the difference between a specialized sales associate and someone who is just putting in time, hoping to do as little as possible before his or her shift is over.