Customer service is not (completely) dead

customer service - receipt

The fast food shop at the interstate exit by my home is an all-too-frequent morning stop for me and my youngest son. We go there on the way to school when we’re running late and I don’t have time to prepare a healthy breakfast. I refuse to eat there, but social convention demands that I keep him fed, so…

Nearly every time we go, I’m reminded that customer service is a dying art. I’m usually “greeted” by a worker at the drive-thru, expressing something between mindless apathy and scorn. I’ve begun calling it the “retail space face.” At one time, only teens who didn’t really need a job would give such a look. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed it from all age groups. The look sends the message that I’m an annoyance, not someone who supports their place of employment. If only I hadn’t stopped there, they could continue texting, and not have to do anything resembling work. After all, they shouldn’t have to deal with the public just to receive a paycheck…right?

My experience isn’t confined only to this restaurant, or even to fast food places in general. It just seems to be a common theme in many customer-facing jobs today. The message is clear: friendly customer service is a luxury, and not something you should expect.

Maybe I shouldn’t expect good customer service anymore, but I still do.

When someone at a retail store is helpful, I appreciate it. But when they go beyond good customer service and give excellence, I…well…I guess I write about it.

customer service - receiptThis weekend, I experienced excellence in customer service from a gentleman named Tim. I remember his name because I made a point to remember him. Tim works at a Men’s Warehouse about an hour away. He knew we were coming, because my wife called ahead to make sure they had the $20 item we needed.

When we arrived, Tim overheard us ask about the item he had set aside for us, and came over to introduce himself. Before we could make the purchase, Tim told us they were having a BOGO sale, and we could pick out another similarly-priced item.

In a store where suits can sell for several hundred dollars, we were there to buy the equivalent of bubble gum, and this man took the time to make sure we got a piece for free. Tim was awesome. But he didn’t stop.

We were buying suspenders for my older son, who needed them for a Great Gatsby themed dance. When we told him, he led us across the store to help find our free item. After searching for several minutes, we landed on some matching socks.

The entire fifteen minutes we were there, Tim engaged us in friendly conversation. He asked questions in a conversational tone: never pressuring, but always helpful. His questions brought out that our son plays in the orchestra, so he mentioned an upcoming sale on a line of concert tuxedos. He also mentioned that the BOGO sale included suits to fit my {ahem} big-and-tall frame. Tim had already started helping me toward a future purchase, but he did it in such a friendly, low-key way that I hardly felt I was being sold anything. He was just there to help.

I’m sure Tim works on commission, but he never made the sale his main objective. In the Vaynerchuk vernacular, he was jabbing. And he was doing it for peanuts. The entire sale was $20 plus tax, but Tim treated us like we were there to buy a dozen suits.

I have to admit that I’ve never been in a Men’s Warehouse store before. Maybe all their employees are as helpful and professional as Tim…I don’t know. After working from home for the last six years, I haven’t had a much need for a new suit. But with that kind of service, you don’t have to guess who I’ll call on when my son outgrows his current tuxedo. I’m actually thinking of going in for a fitting for myself soon.

I wonder if Tim would ever consider doing some customer service training for restaurants…

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