Saturday, May 30, 2009
Concession for the Recession
My last gas fill-up at the local Speedway in Lexington was filled with nuisances. The service wasn't necessarily bad, it was just annoying. I pull up to the pump, get out, then have to navigate past this big Budweiser ad-stand they had in front of the pump. For a small person maybe it's no biggie, but for us big people, you damn near knock it down to get to the gas pump. I fill 'er up then decide to go in and get a diet coke. I get it and stand in line - the line was a good 6 people deep. Unfortunately, there was only one store clerk (the other was outside on smoke break). I've run into this store clerk before. She's very friendly, really nice, but she is just slow as hell. She talks and talks and talks. That is why the line is so long - not because anybody has special purchases - she is just going through life stories with everyone. I purchased a car wash with my fill-up, and drive over to the washer. As I'm sitting in there, I notice all the debris from bird's nests on the dryer vents. See I probably would not have paid much attention to it had I not already been annoyed, but now I was in "critical" mode now, so everything I saw, I critiqued. I'm thinking that I'm paying money to have my car washed, and now it's drying my car with bird nest debris flying out of the dryer vents onto my clean truck. I finally get through and head home.
Now on my way home, I remembered seeing the sign "How are we doing? Let us know at Speedway.com". I thought, yup, I'm going to and let you know the clerks are too slow, your promotional setups are in the way, and your car wash needs to be cleaned. But then I thought, well... what if this particular clerk or store manager is already on thin ice because of slow performance or other store issues? Another complaint may end up being the last straw, last write-up, and then they're out of a job. So I talked myself out of writing to Speedway and told myself I was just being too critical, and that my experience was not worth causing someone else a headache during hard times.
Normally, I would have never given this a second thought. I would have written, lodged my complaint, and expected better results next time I visited the store.
My husband and I tend to be tough on customer service at the places we patronize. We both started our careers in the service industry (food service & lodging) and having been in management, we know the value of customer service. Often the service you receive somewhere is more important than the actual cost of the service. Many people are much more willing to overlook the higher price of food, gas, lodging or other service if they receive good customer service. It usually determines for us if we'll make a return visit to a place of business. Who wants to continue to go to a place and pay money if you don't receive good service? Even if they have a great product, it is just not worth it to us to deal with bad service. That's one reason why I'm against government-sponsored monopolies like cable companies, water companies, electric companies, etc. If you have a service issue with any of those, you can complain, but there's not much else you can do because there is no other company to provide that service. But that's another story...
So my small concession in this recession is to not be so tough on those providing customer service. Jobs seem to be hard to come by right now, and I don't want to be the final complaint that gets someone terminated in these rough tides. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that a company should provide the best customer service possible, and when we get back to a flourishing economy, I'll likely change my ways back to making my disapproval of bad service known to management. I work for my money and if I'm willing to trade some of it for service then I expect good service...but I'm willing to overlook some questionable service right now because times are tough.
This doesn't mean that you're still going to get a 20% tip if you don't smile, if you screw up the order, if you go missing during dinner, if you make it clear that you dislike your job, if you're a smart ass, if you act a fool. You're still going to get a 0% tip because you haven't figured out that good customer service is what you need to provide, but my concession is that I'm not going to ask for a manager, call the corporate office, write an email, or point out to your superiors that you're giving bad customer service. Hopefully the zero on the tip line will be enough to prompt you to get it together and you won't have another documented mark against you from me.
I make no promises that my husband will make the same concession, but I'll try to rope him in... :)