The art of customer service: dead or in hiding?

First, my apologies for being MIA for so many months. Between work, wedding planning, the Junior League and being President of the FPRA Capital Chapter, I rarely have time to even think about blogging, let alone actually type a post! Hopefully in mid-August, I will be back on track – posting weekly. I should be refreshed from our Alaskan honeymoon and ready to attack the fall.

However, given all my craziness, I still wanted to take the time to write about the importance and art of customer service. This stems from an awful brunch experience Sunday at a Tallahassee restaurant. It was my second time there. I gave the place the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately I once again left underwhelmed and disappointed.

I’ve never worked in hospitality, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to deal with customers all day, with their diet requests and personalities. However, the concept of being nice and welcoming is not alien to me as I work in PR and deal with clients, media and people all day! I know we all have bad days, people who drive us nuts and times where we are just over it, but unfortunately if you work with people, you must suck it up and be kind. After all, they’re probably not the problem…you’re just projecting.

Case in point, yesterday at brunch I arrived with two other girlfriends and our three little dogs. We sat outside at the restaurant and I went inside to alert someone that we were seated outside – I even offered to bring the menus out myself. After a few minutes, we were “greeted” by an unpleasant server. No hello, how are you or even a smile. She was annoyed that we were there and more so when we asked if we could get some fresh water for the pups. We brushed it off and tried to stay positive…it was our Sunday Funday after all.

We order our brunch items: waffles, huevos rancheros and a Cuban sandwich. Then we wait…and wait…and wait. We have to suggest to our server, who continues ignoring us, that perhaps it would be a good idea to leave a pitcher of water for us since she’s busy inside with her other tables — namely an “8 top.” Meanwhile other tables that had arrived after us were receiving their food and their servers were checking in on them. Hmmm…finally after what felt like hours our food arrives and it’s kinda cold and okay. Nothing to write home about. Our server comes by to check on us and asks how it is…we all say the same thing: “It’s okay. Thank you.” That was not the adjective she was looking for. We told her it was good, not great and that we were a bit disappointed to have waited an hour for the food. She got super upset with us and stormed off. She comes back and declares: “I have clarified with the kitchen and you did not wait an hour, it was 42 minutes.”

Well then, alright. Excuse us, it was nearly 45 minutes then. At this point, our brunch is officially ruined. We speak to a manager who makes excuses about being busy, etc. He offers nothing in return, not even a sincere apology. So, as we paid for our checks and left, we decided they would be less busy now since they’ve lost three customers and their potential business.

The sad part is customer service seems to be a dying art. More and more, I’m experiencing these less than pleasant encounters at restaurants, in stores, and over the phone. I’m not sure why, but it seems everyone is upset, tired, overworked, uninterested or simply rude. I’m not asking for a cheerleader every time or for my food to come out in five minutes. I’m pretty patient, but I do think that if you work with people (and most of us do to some degree), it helps if you start with a smile and try your best to be nice and pleasant.

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