Posts tagged ‘customer service’

May 11, 2015

#92) An open letter to the small businesses of America

Dear Small Businesses of America,

I would like to take this opportunity to respectfully request that you get your shit together.

Not all of you, of course. Some of you do everything you can and as a political independent who favors decentralized economies and who has several friends who own small businesses, I admire your collective efforts to provide top quality goods and services. Many of you are pillars of your communities. Some of you, however, have been disappointing me lately.

Without naming names it’s hard to provide specifics, but let’s just say this: if I walk into a restaurant and see a long line being slowly served by dour-faced employees, I’m marching my sorry ass across the street to the chain store where bright-eyed servers address me by name. Yes, it’s a bit Stepford-y, but when it comes to lunch, I’m happy to settle for a skin-deep experience if it’s pleasant (and more importantly quick). When I walk into your liquor store, I’m doing it because odds are you have beers other than Bud Light. Looking down on me because I haven’t read your wine blog doesn’t add to my experience and though I have to bite my lip to say it, more and more big boxes are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon.

Look, I get it. Owning a business is fucking hard. Democrats want to tax and regulate you into extinction; Republicans talk a great game about supporting small business but when the rubber hits the road they can never seem to get out of bed with the Fortune 500. Serve loyally and faithfully day in day out and no one notices; one off day and it’s all over Yelp. It’s not reasonable to expect that you will have the same enthusiasm five years in as the day you opened. All I’m asking is that you put your best foot forward.

I think of my favorite small businesses as friends. As a heterosexual male, getting my hair cut is simply an errand to check off the to-do list, but thanks to the Den and JH Color Machine, it’s now like getting to hang out with friends (with beer). Though I no longer live near Olives Gourmet Grocer (you may remember them from #30) the family-like vibe exuded by the store makes me want to go out of my way for their terrific Cubano.

Even good friendships have their ups and downs and most good people will forgive imperfections. We want the friendship to work, just as we want to see the little guys succeed. Some friendships just aren’t meant to last though, whether because of little things or the big things. If you forget your customers’ names, the clerks at the big store down the street will remember them, even if it’s just because corporate has ordered them to read your credit card.

Sorry to rant; remember I’m here for you.

Cheers,

D-Lock

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July 23, 2014

#81) An open letter to the restaurant customers mentioned in post #80

Dear restaurant customers mentioned in post #80,

Recently you collectively have come under fire for complaining about slow service when surveillance footage indicated that your behavior–mainly cell phone related–increased your length of stay by an average of 50 minutes.  In addition to being asked by the restaurant itself to “be more considerate”, you’ve also received your share of finger-wagging from those ranting about how rude today’s kids are, accompanied by cries for the banishment of electronics from restaurants.

I’m not here to add to that; I’m here to make a suggestion.  I’ll get to it later.

First of all, I support your right to take selfies at the restaurant; to take pictures of the food; to use the establishment’s Wifi connection.  (I get it; your data plan doesn’t grow on a tree.)  When you eat at a restaurant, you’re paying not just for food and convenience but also for atmosphere; you are entitled to include your cell phone as part of the atmosphere, at least if you aren’t gabbing away too loudly on it.  As I mentioned in post #80, if restaurants aren’t willing to cater to the cell-phone related needs of paying customers, they can’t cry foul when said customers head to more tech-friendly spots.

I also understand why you take selfies and pictures of the food.  It’s not about ego (okay, it’s a little bit about ego, but despite what they might tell you, baby boomers and Gen-X’ers have egos too; if the Kodachrome had been able to take good selfies, you can bet your entire library of Ellie Goulding downloads that the children of the ’70s would have taken tons of them).  It’s about keeping a memory alive.  Why do people spend money to go to Cancun?  The vacation itself is fun, but it’s really the memory. It’s perfectly understandable to take many pictures to keep the memory of a vacation alive, so why can’t one do the same at a restaurant?

As promised, here’s my suggestion.  While vacations come along once a year if you’re lucky, most people eat out at least once a month or perhaps more so.  Just enjoy the moment.  You may be bummed if the pictures from your once-in-a-lifetime safari or Greek isles cruise didn’t come out, but odds are you’ll be at another restaurant before too long.  You may enjoy the taste of your food more if you aren’t worrying about which filter to use when photographing it.

Yes, some meals are truly special occasions.  There are some restaurants you may only visit once in a lifetime.  I’m not telling you not to take pictures. I’m suggesting that the memories shouldn’t come at the expense of the actual experience.  It’s not your job to adjust your habits to make a restaurant staff’s job easier.  Don’t do it for them.  Do it for you.

 

July 14, 2014

#80) The restaurant time forgot (and what musicians can learn from it)

Note: this is a simulblog, posted on both D-Theory and Positive Music Place.

The story sounds familiar: a restaurant consistently received bad reviews, so they looked over surveillance videos to see what was going on.  The plot twist came when management looked over the film.  The results were surprising–not because they were shocking, but just the opposite.  There were no bodily functions performed on the prime rib; no one playing Words with Friends as a grease fire broke out; no managers putting the make on waitresses in the office; none of the employee hijinks that might be expected.  In fact, when they compared the recent footage to tapes from ten years earlier, the employee behavior was pretty much the same.  It was the customers that were different.

According the article about this restaurant’s findings, seven out of the 45 customers observed on the recent video asked their servers for the Wifi password.  Twenty-seven of the 45 requested that their waiter take a picture of their group; 14 of those 27 asked for a second picture.  Long story short: the restaurant’s conclusion was that customer behavior increased the average length of stay by 50 minutes compared to ten years ago.

Here’s where the restaurant missed the mark.  “We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there.  But you please be a little more considerate?” they implore at the end of the article.

The problem is, the restaurant doesn’t accept the fact that–whether or not they agree with it–for many customers, the cell phone is as important a part of the meal as the locally sourced vegetables and the craft beers.  The restaurant customer of 2014 expects to be able to take photos of their food and themselves enjoying it.  Savvy restauranteurs embrace the free advertising and integrate cell phones into the dining experience they provide;  proprietors stuck in the past complain about how kids today have no manners instead of trying to figure out how to better cater to them, thus resulting in poor online reviews.

So far you’ve read over 300 of my words (which I appreciate, thank you!); none of which is “music.”  What does this restaurant and their grievances with cell phones have to do with music?

Musicians face a similar dilemma in terms of getting their product out to new audiences.  Yes, we all want to do it our way, but trends, buying habits and tastes change.  Many consumers expect to be able to get music for free.  Music fans often see Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as ways of connecting with their favorite bands.  (Check out this post on CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog for more thoughts on the subject.)  The musician who evolves to fit the needs of  2014’s audience will likely have more gigs than the one who shakes his fist and rants about how no one appreciates AC/DC, Zeppelin or Sabbath anymore (the fact that I am writing this blog instead of playing a show might give a hint about the category in which I belong).

Elitism can have its place.  Fattburger’s slogan is “We’re not for everyone”; the Stone Brewing Company Arrogant Bastard’s bottle reads, “You’re not worthy.”  Businesses sometimes have funny have signs mocking Wifi obsessiveness.  Similarly, the independent musician who doggedly sticks to their guns and refuses to cave in to any trends, technological or otherwise, sometimes succeeds.  Let’s be honest though; these are usually the exception, not the rule.

I don’t claim to have much experience in the food service business (unless you count the lemonade stand my brother and I had as kids) but I do know this: the restaurant’s choices are to either to brand themselves as a cell-phone free zone (a move which may make their following smaller but more loyal) or adapt to changing times and train waiters to accept taking pictures of drunken customers as part of their job description.

Today’s consumer typically has more options for night life, dining and entertainment than they do time or money; as a band, restaurant or other purveyor of goods and services, you have a lot of competition for customers/fans.  If you look down on Wifi use at your restaurant, customers will likely go to the place down the block where it’s embraced.

Let’s face it, time can be a harsh mistress.  Yesterday’s rock star is today’s grumpy old man telling kids to get off their lawn.  Today’s rock stars–culinary, musical or otherwise–are often ones that let people on their lawn, but charge extra for Wifi.

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