Fast Food Service? Time For an Overhaul.

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By a show of hands (yes really do this), how many of you went through the drive through lately and were given all of the above:

1.)  Visual acknowledgement (they looked at you)

2.)  Facial acknowledgement (they smiled at you)

3.) Professional acknowledgement (they thanked you for your business)

I’m not seeing many hands.  Figured as much.

Over the days ahead, I’m going to be writing on this very issue…drive-through customer service.  It’s not rocket science, but even with that in mind, the question is still this: why in the world is it so damn hard to get (minimum) good service at the drive-through?

Now, I do understand that not every fast food restaurant offers that same experience (I’ve still yet to go to a Chik-fil-A that didn’t provide me with, minimum, good service and more often-than-not exceptional service).  But there is clearly a problem that needs to be rectified.

And hopefully I can help alleviate that problem.  If only a little.

To be continued…

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Where’s the Passion?

Hands in pockets.  Shoulders slumped.  Expressionless face.  Closed body language.  Basically, everything about these salespeople was screaming, “If you want to buy my product, that’s fine.  If you don’t that’s fine, too.  Whatever, just follow me on my tour as I tell you stuff.”

Watching these people was a terribly underwhelming experience.  Each and every single sales rep from this company was missing a key ingredient from their sales schtick (I couldn’t quite tell if they were asking questions and matching needs with solutions).  That one ingredient is this…

Where’s the passion?  I’ve written about this idea before, but then I see it happen again and again wherever I go.  Lack of passion is a plague and it’s not showing much, if any, signs of improving.  I’ve heard it suggested a couple of times recently that wages and salary caps are to blame.  (Which, of course, begs the question, At what salary can we expect excellent customer service and effort?)  Lack of incentive might also be a cuplrit (in this economic climate, however, the primary incentive should be receiving a steady paycheck).  I have a different theory personally.

Management.  Pure and simple.

Managers, if you want passionate sales and customer service reps (or all team members in general), you need to do three things:

1.)  Train the passion.  Granted, I can’t give somebody passion as if it’s a Christmas present (though I wish I could).  But I can show my team how to express passion in two words: body language.  Open posture and gestures.  Smiles on faces.  “Yes” phrases instead of “no” phrases.  Genuine interest in a prospective or current client’s questions, and wanting to let them do most of the talking.  Train your team on expressing passion…and you could see an uptick in your closing ratios.

2.)  Foster the passion.  Maybe you can’t pay higher salaries or fat bonuses.  (Of course, if your sales team closed more sales, this might not be an issue.)  But you can do more to encourage people to get jacked up on their jobs.  Contests, incentives (doesn’t always have to be about more money…find your team’s hot buttons and get creative), and other morale boosters can get your team excited about their jobs and give them more reason to come into work each day.  Share your vision, your goals, and how your team members contribute to the success of the company.  Try some transparency and trust that they’ll catch on to what matters.

3.)  Model the passion.  It starts at the top.  There isn’t a manager on the face of the planet who could possibly expect his or her employees to have passion for their work if they, themselves, don’t personally model it.  I tell middle and frontline managers to suck it up and show their direct reports their own passion for their work and company, even if the higher ups don’t do likewise.  But upper level managers, if you’re reading this, believe this to be true…if you’re not doing it, don’t expect your team to do it, either.  They’re watching you and will resent you if you don’t practice your preach.  You want them to model passion?  You be the first to model it.

If your team is currently lacking in the passion department, there is no easy fix or turnaround.  But you can right the course of your vessel if it’s off by following these three principals.  It’ll take some time, but the results will be noticeable.  And profitable.

QUESTION:  How can you best model passion for your team (regardless of your position in the company)?

Speedy Service?

I want that and I want that yesterday.

Have you ever heard those words from a customer?  Okay, maybe not those words exactly…but you have assuredly felt those sentiments when faced with a customer making seemingly impossible demands.  So what do you do in this situation?

Among the many aspects of customer service that your clients will rate you is your speed of service.  I would submit to you that this speed of service is broken down into two key components:

1.)  Rate of Response

2.)  Rate of Delivery

Let’s face it….you want to do all you can to satisfy your customer, but your Rate of Delivery may not be exactly what the customer has in mind.  Doesn’t he know  that it takes 1-2 weeks for that part to come in?  He might, but he doesn’t care.  He’s got a busted ride or a fridge on the fritz.  He wants it fixed on HIS timetable, not yours.

Though your actual delivery time might take longer than you’d like, your Rate of Response will be what makes or breaks the service experience.  Are you giving your customer the impression that you’re moving heaven and earth to make this thing happen?  Are you showing him that he’s a VIP (regardless of the price tag) and that getting this handled is priority 1 for you?  (And yes I realize this means that you’ve got a hundred “priority 1’s” on your desk…again, this is about impressions.)  If the answer is no, then it doesn’t matter how fast you get it done.  If you appear slow on the stick in solving your customer’s problems, then you’ll have an unhappy customer on your hands.

Always do what you can to handle the problem ASAP…but even if that part takes longer than you’d like, show the customer that you’re prompt, punctual, and professional in your response.

QUESTION:  What else can you do to show that VIP mentality to your customers in responding to their service issues?

It Starts at the Top

I was recently at a convenience store attempting to purchase my weakness: Coke Zero and a Twix.  I had just finished pumping some gas outside and was ready to get back on the road after presenting a class on customer service.  I might have made it through the checkout process a lot faster if it weren’t for the fact that the clerk was engaged in casual conversation about his new SUV with custom rims.  But it wasn’t his buddies or a girl he was trying to impress with his bragging.It was his boss and store owner.  And the boss was fully into the conversation.

Are you kidding me?  Here’s a buying customer, cash money in hand, waiting patiently (yet aggravated) at the register for the conversation to break just long enough for the transation to happen.  I literally waited for over a minute.  And it’s not like I’m a little dude who would be hard to notice in a crowd.  They both knew I was there and did nothing to put the customer first over a conversation that should not have been happening in the first place with buying in customers in line.

I confess to being a bit taken aback by the whole situation.  Had that been myself or any of the other business owners I know, the conversation would have been shut down until the clerk had completed the sales that were right there in front of him.  I probably would have rolled up my own sleeves to help move the line myself.  But that’s just me.  All I could think of was I should be inviting the guy and his whole staff to attend my next customer service training in that area.  They clearly needed it.

Managers, it begins with you.  What kind of customer service culture are you fostering and promoting in your business?  Are you there to talk about an employee’s car…or are you there to help that guy earn his salary to put gas in the car, pay his other bills, and build a living?  I see it time and again amongst employees, and it aggravates the tar out of me every time.  To see it come from the manager/owner is an even greater sin.  Go ahead and neglect the customer…next time you’ll see him get his Coke Zero and Twix across the street.  Those $3 sales add up.

QUESTION:  How do you foster a customer service culture in your company?

Back to the (Customer Service) Basics

Is there something on my face?  Do I have bad breath?  Missing a tooth that I’ve been previously unaware of?

All of those thoughts and more cross my mind every single time I visit the drive-through and the individual sitting in that window virtually refuses to look me in the eye when taking my money or handing me my order.  If I weren’t for the fact that I’m composed of something (albeit slightly) stronger than sticks and stones, the lack of eye contact might begin to hurt me.  But I think that, perhaps, it really has less to do with me than it does a lack of training or a big picture perspective.

“But Scott, this is not the job I want.  I don’t really want to be here.  This is only a stepping stone.  I’m only doing this because everybody starts out serving up a Number Three Combo with a large Coke Zero, no ice.”  Speaking of, sounds kind of like one of my fast food orders.  Starting to get hungry now.

But I digress.

Yes, I understand that you might not have imagined as a youth that you’d one day be wearing a name tag at Burger Heaven and dropping the fries into the fryer.  I’ve been there myself, I get that sentiment.  You are, however, currently employed there.  And as an employee of the company, positive customer service is your responsibility for 100% of your encounters with each and every customer – both internal and external.  Even though your management might have taken you through the scripted and packaged company line on customer service, it can be challenging to maintain that expectation throughout your shift, whether you’re at Burger Heaven or Al’s Mart of Stuff.

Customer service isn’t rocket science, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in our work that we forget what our job really is – positive customer service experiences.  We (presumably) want to stay employed?  For that to happen, customers need to come back for repeat experiences.  And if they’re not receiving the experience they expect and deserve, they’ll find somewhere else to spend their money.  It’s a process that has caused many companies to close their doors.  Don’t take care of your customer, then somebody else will.

So maybe what we need is to get back to basics.  If you feel like your or your company’s customer service needs to get back on-track, I offer up the following tips:

1.)  Smile!!  That’s right, it’s as simple as that.  When you smile at your customer, you’re showing them that it’s your pleasure to be serving them (a lesson we can all learn from our friends at Chik-fil-A).  It also breaks your own stress cycle and helps improve your mood.  Try it, you may be surprised.  For better or for worse, wear that smile.  Plus it takes fewer muscles to smile as it does to frown.  I’ve never personally counted, but I’ll take their word for it.

2.)  Don’t just tell them – show them.“Well yes sir, the Prune-o-Matic machines are over on aisle 13.”  Awesome, now where exactly is aisle 13?  Where on aisle 13?  I don’t seem them IN aisle 13, now where did that twerp go??  Yeah, we’ve all been there.  It’s aggravating and not very professional.  If a customer is looking for something specific, don’t tell her where to go find it…take her there and make sure she connects with that product.

3.)  Eye contact (just not too much) – The opposite of zero eye contact is akin to starting a staring contest.  You’re not trying to reach into their soul or look like a statue.  You’re simply giving pleasant eye contact and letting the customer know they have your focus.  Even though you have fifty other things to do at that moment, that person has all of you.  When you give good eye contact and your winning smile, the impression you leave on them is priceless.

4.)  For goodness sakes, say “Thank you.”  While you’re looking at him and smiling, when you’ve concluded the encounter, just say “thank you.”  I’m not sure where the art of courtesy has disappeared (unless it’s gone with the missing socks in my dryer), but this absolutely needs to be brought back.  Saying “thank you” is very much a recognition extended to the customer for doing business with you and your company.  They are also an open door to return for more business.  Two words.  Infinite impact.

Nothing fancy or out of the ordinary.  Just simply the basics that, sadly, too many businesses are either not pushing or employees aren’t incorporating into their daily routines.  Spread the word, get back to the basics and enjoy your customers and your work again.

QUESTION:  How do you and your company deliver excellent customer service to your customers?