Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Service Isn't Optional!

Something I've recently been noticing, for one reason or another, is quality service, or lack of it, whenever I am acting as the "customer"  in daily interactions.  I've noticed that what sticks with me after I leave a business, especially a restaurant, isn't the food or the stuff they had there, it's the service.

I really thought about this recently after some friends and I went out to eat at a local bar and grill called Shiloh's.  I noticed that I couldn't, and still can't, remember exactly what I had to eat, but what I do remember is that my iced tea was never empty and our waitress, though busy and not overly talkative, was pleasant and always kept our drinks filled.  Though I'm sure my food there was good, that's not what will bring me back there.  What will bring me back is knowing that as a customer they took care of my friend's and I, even though it was a busy Friday night in a college town.  I was sure to reward the waitress with a larger than 15% tip, because good service should never go unnoticed, especially on a busy Friday evening.

Especially in a college town, like Columbia, I've realized quality service at food places can be hard to come by, with the staff having to deal with rude college students so frequently.  Now mind you there aren't many places I've been to recently that have been particularly bad.  Though, I know that there are some places that customer service is far from a number one priority.  The easiest example is at the Campus Dining locations.  Now I don't want to "hate" on Mizzou's Campus Dining, because it's usually just fine, but I have had some experiences that were rather poorly handled and didn't keep customers first.  For example, some friends and I were at one dining locations for a late night snack, I had ordered two milkshakes (one for a friend) and some fries.  We sat there waiting for 45 minutes or so (which is on the long side for this place) when I finally decided to go see what the problem was.  Though the girl was polite and apologetic I was simply told they milkshake machine was broken and they were working on it.  About 30 minutes later I went back up and asked again.  The girl, still polite, gave me the same answer.  So I waited about 15 minutes more and asked a different person.  Who then proceeded to explain it was broken and wouldn't be fixed until tomorrow.  No one was rude to me, but I certainly felt as though I had not been given the service that should be given to patrons of any eatery.  When I asked for my "money" back (because we use dining points) I was told I would have to stop by the office at a later time.  I never did, because I didn't really need the points back, but it was nonetheless upsetting to hear.  Lack of communication between an establishment and the customer is the biggest disservice of all in my opinion.  Had I been informed that the machine was broken at the 45 minute mark I would have simply smiled and shrugged it off.  Obviously there are much worse things that could happen as far as lack of service goes, but this was just the most recent experience I could think of.

When I think about customer service in my life there is one person that always comes to mind, my Grandaddy (Grandfather for you non-Southerners).  Of the many things my Grandaddy has taught me the importance of good service might be the most valuable.  I say this because lack of service is really just a lack of respect and respect is key in everything.  To give you some background, I can recall from a very young age my Grandaddy saying the dreaded words, "Can I speak to your manager?", while we were eat out.  He very rarely gets truly angry, as matter of fact I'm not sure I've ever seen him really "angry".  Usually, Grandaddy is just extremely direct about what he wants done about the situation and always clearly and calmly explains why he is upset.  Really what my Grandaddy taught me was service isn't optional.  When I think about that and then the lack of high-end service I realize that what I really want to do with my life is bring customer service to the limelight, where it belongs.  If my Grandaddy hadn't always demanded the absolute best service for himself and his family I would have never learned that important lesson, and probably wouldn't know what I wanted to do with my life.

The moral of the story is, as an institution and/or customer service based employee, remember that service isn't optional.  Great service will always bring people back to your business and can often make you more money.  For customers, remember that if you don't ask for, scratch that, demand the best service possible then you're preforming a huge disservice for everyone else that walks in there, not to mention the business itself.  Finally, for my Grandaddy, thanks for teaching to appreciate good service, it's really helped shape who I've become!

-Adam Dent

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