Sunday, September 13, 2009

Best Bad Example

I've had this topic rattling around in my head for a long time. It all came to me when my sister and I went to lunch at a great (usually) place near her office. This is an amazing story:

When we walked in, the host didn't even say hello, just held up 2 fingers, and started walking with some menus in his hand. He put the menus down on a booth table and then kept walking, and L and I weren't certain if we were supposed to follow him or sit at the booth! When I saw that he stopped to talk to someone at a far table, I figured this booth was for us. After all our menus were there, right?

This guy turned out to be our waiter. He took our drink order by saying "drinks?" He came, brought the salsa and some water, but no chips. Then he came with his order pad in hand and stood there, waiting to write. Still no words, he just looked at us, one at a time. We gave our order and he walked away. L wondered - are we going to get any tortilla chips? I flagged down a waiter (not ours, I don't think) and said "can we please have some chips?", and after a little confusion, he went and got some chips. By this time, L and I were laughing at the bad service. When the waiter brought out our food and set it down w/o a word, I said to L, maybe we should tip one quarter per word. So far that would be, what, 50 cents? I am not exaggerating - throughout our entire time at lunch, that waiter said 3 words to us! Only 3! He barely made eye contact, and was not at all attentive. If the food wasn't so spectacular, we'd never go back.

This got me to thinking about customer service at the Library. I mean, we're in the business, right? How much do we actually say to people who come in our doors? Are we enthusiastic about helping people? When we announce programs, do they sound enticing? Do we assume that everyone has been there before, or do we assume there is someone in the building who really has no idea how things work? Are we patient, treating each customer like they're the first and most important person of our day? I have thought about going back to that restaurant and taking a pic of that horrible waiter, just to keep in my mind how important it is to connect with our customers.

We don't sell great food, we don't even offer snacks or drinks. Sometimes, the building is full enough that there aren't even any available chairs! Our product is more ethereal - it is connection. We give our customers connection to the internet, for sure, but also a connection to another human being. We are sometimes the first person they've asked for help in using the computer or finding that information they need. Sometimes, we're their last resort, sometimes we are their third place and sometimes we're part of the vast array of middle ground.

Regardless of where we fit into the pecking order of their lives, we are there, at the Library, to provide great service. If we can't do that, we are failing.

That's my 2 cents on the topic today.


Squints2.0 said...

This is truly the best bad example! It is so hard to determine how to tip when the service is so bad. Customer service is so very important and will be even more so in the upcoming year.

Slang said...

It is one of my pet peeves: poor customer service. Over the past several years, it has declined on nearly every front. It has become so universal that we don't have much recourse anymore.

I'm glad there are still people who see the value in it and make it an integral part of their business.

Jim Brochowski said...

I think being on both sides of the counter makes me a better and a worse customer. I try to remember what it's like on the storefront so to speak, and be understanding when possible, but I have to admit that sometimes I know how I think it should be done, and I get upset if it isn't.

If I were in your shoes here, I might have raised holy heck! No excuses there at all. I think we can all recognize that.

At the library I try to treat people how I would want to be treated. Each day presents different challenges. Some are easy to overcome, some are more difficult.

I reach back for my "True Intent," card very often and let that gauge guide me as a customer service provider. That's also when I connect best with the customer.

prashant said...

It has become so universal that we don't have much recourse anymore.

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kanishk said...

I'm glad there are still people who see the value in it and make it an integral part of their business.

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