Positive Customer Service Challenge

I can live for two months on a good compliment. –Mark Twain

Having spent a brief stint in the service industry as a Jamba Juice drink artist and another as a restaurant server (Employee of the Month July 2007!… not like I remember or anything), I encountered my fair share of customer complaints. Many were warranted — like when I dropped an entire pitcher of soda on a dude. But regardless the gripe, “the customer was always right.”

These experiences have shaped the customer that I am today. As is well-documented here, when I have an issue, I speak up. And because I speak up, I usually get results. That being said, I always treat the offending party/company/llama with respect and I usually let minor grievances slide.

But I’m also a loyal customer. I’m an Apple fanboy. I swear by Vans. I’ll lay down my life for In-N-Out. And I sing praises for all the interwebs to hear about Moosejaw, Amazon, and the Mailbox app. Usually my compliments are directed toward the company or the product. Rarely do my compliments extend to the hard-working men and women behind these and the many other products and services I enjoy on a daily basis.

Last week, Joanna and I were out running an errand around lunchtime. We pulled up to the drive-through at Wendy’s to snag some Value Menu items and a few thousand calories. We were greeted by a cheery woman who gladly rattled off the ingredients on a certain burger, and let us know she would be happy to remove any of those items. I finished our order and pulled forward. After a brief wait, we reached the window. Our bubbly window attendant asked how our day was going, counted the number of burgers in the bag, and verified the number with us. It was at this time that Joanna remembered she wanted to ask for a cup of water. Looking in our rearview mirror and seeing a growing line of cars, I reluctantly asked if we could please have a cup of water. She audibly “psssh’ed” us and replied, “Of course!” She grabbed a medium cup (instead of the water-cup-for-ants), asked if we each wanted one, and wished us well as we thanked her and drove away.

After pulling away, Joanna and I remarked at how awesome she was and if we owned a retail business, we would steal her from Wendy’s in a heartbeat. I felt a desire to let her know how pleasant and helpful she was for what appeared to be such a thankless job. When we got home, I got on Wendy’s site, found their contact section, filled out a form, and left a glowing review of our drive-through attendant at restaurant #8262. After pressing submit, I realized that this was maybe my second or third time ever leaving a compliment about an employee’s service. That’s a terrible, awful, no good thing.

You’re probably all far better people than I am and are already doing this regularly. But if you don’t, here’s the challenge: take the time this week to compliment an employee. It could be the drive-through attendant, or the barista who writes your name with a Stussy “S” every single morning, or even someone you work with. Whoever it is, tell/call/tweet/email their boss and pass along your praises. It will only take a couple minutes and even better — it’s totally free!

I’d love to think that our Wendy’s employee’s manager will give her a bonus, or an extra day off, or some sort of recognition. But at the very least, I hope she’s told that she is an excellent employee who is doing her very best. Because sometimes, a compliment or a “job well done” is worth more than all of that anyway.

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  • Reply Rob January 14, 2014 at 8:26 am

    “Because sometimes, a compliment or a “job well done” is worth more than all of that anyway.”

    Too true, dude! And not just for those in the service industries but compliments (and atta boys / girls) publicly given for a job well done and appreciated in any industry goes a long way and often is more effective than the (to be expected) “yearly token raise”.

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 2:56 am

      Good call. Heck, there’s probably 5-10 people we encounter on a daily basis who deserve a pat on the back. Compliments are a dumb thing to be stingy with.

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone January 14, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I know that this post is all about being nice to the “little guy,” but I actually think it’s applicable to my work. At my work, I feel like my clients are very appreciative…it’s the colleagues that I work with that I feel I’m always trying to please (and possibly failing). I’m guessing that they feel the same. I’d like to work on letting THEM know how much I appreciate and notice their work.

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 3:00 am

      For sure. Little guy, big guy, coworker — everyone is need of a compliment. I don’t think everyone always deserves one, but when they do, there’s really no good reason to hold back on doling them out.

  • Reply Little House January 14, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I don’t think I’ve complimented a service worker in a very long time, nor let their boss know what a great job they were doing. I’ll have to keep my eye out this week for excellent service!

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 3:01 am

      I need to send myself an automated email each morning or something to remind myself to be on the lookout. It’s a really fun challenge to start the day thinking about.

  • Reply Julie January 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Agreed! Being recognized, even just verbally, goes a long way in any industry.

    I locked myself and my 2 month old out of our car on a cold March day a few years back. Fortunately, there was an Autozone in the same plaza. I found a worker and pleaded for his help. He did his best and spent lots of time out in the cold trying to get the lock open. He was eventually successful and all he did was apologize for scratching my paint where his tool slipped behind my window. Uh, I was the idiot who locked my keys in the car, you helped me for free, and you’re apologizing to me?! I made sure I went in a complimented his help to his manager on duty, but I feel bad I didn’t e-mail the corporate headquarters. I still think of him every time I’m in that plaza!

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 3:02 am

      That’s an awesome story! What a good dude. And I’m sure he felt the reward in just helping out. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Anna January 14, 2014 at 11:05 am

    YOU. GUYS. Very sweet 🙂 And, I am sure you made her day. I worked as a waitress at a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) when I was in high school, there was a resident there that always liked to talk to me about theater, and when it came time for the play I was in that year, she was in attendance and even stopped by the wing to TAKE A PICTURE OF ME IN COSTUME (I KNOW). It was the nicest thing a “customer” has ever done, and I’ll never forget it. Even now, it brings a huge smile to my face!

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 3:06 am

      Ah, shoot. That’s just the best. Old people are the best. What an awesome woman. And clearly you left quite an impression on her if she made it a point to attend. Now I want to go find an old person to hug. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Mandi Holmes January 14, 2014 at 11:25 am

    This is my favorite thing to do! Usually if you call and talk to the manager, they are expecting you to complain, so it makes their day too!

    Way to go!

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 3:07 am

      I’m so passive that calling probably wouldn’t cross my radar. But 2014 seems like a great year to change that. It definitely seems like there’d be more satisfaction in hearing someone on the other line, too.

  • Reply Maureen January 14, 2014 at 11:26 am

    A GREAT reminder. We are lucky to get good customer service very often and I need to be more aware of letting management know about it.

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 3:09 am

      It’s just such an easy thing to do, and yet here I am talking about only having ever done it once or twice in my almost 30 years of existence. That’s gotta change.

  • Reply Kirby @ TheSimpleMoneyBlog January 14, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Such a great change of perspective. So often we are all concerned about what is wrong with a situation that we completely overlook the positive experiences that we have and forget to recognize what is right.

    Changing to this perspective and looking at things a little differently makes a huge difference. I hope the Wendy’s employee gets the deserved recognition. Like you said, it may be a day off, a bonus, or just a congratulations on a job well done, but sometimes a minor recognition is all that is needed to lift someone’s day!

    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2014 at 3:12 am

      In the few moments over the years I’ve been recognized and praised by a boss, I can honestly say I’d rather have those moments than a $0.50 raise. Those last far longer than the extra hundred bucks or so I probably wasted on Wendy’s Frosties. 🙂

  • Reply J.Mill January 15, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    This is the sweetest idea!

    My friends and i went to New Orleans for New Years and received nearly unilaterally terrible service. Slow. Mean. Wrong orders. Terrible instruction. Bad, bad, bad!

    When we finally ate at 2 restaurants who were full of kind, helpful, knowledgeable staff, we made a point to tell them that they are the best in the whole city!

    I was so damn happy to get back to Chicago where service people are Midwestern and working for tips! Makes everyone a bit more kind.

  • Reply Sabrina January 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Having worked at Target on and off for 8 years, I can’t express enough how much it means to retail employees when they hear good compliments. All too often, all they ever hear are complaints so when they hear a compliment or even a simple “thank you” it can make their day. Each morning and evening, most Targets will hold a team huddle. Some of what they talk about is what the plans are for the day but they also share any compliments or praise left by customers (or guests as they call them). They don’t go unnoticed and they are always appreciated.

  • Reply JenB January 20, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Found this post as it was highlighted on http://www.theleangreenbean.com/bean-bytes-73 …. such a good thing to remember. We always seem to go out of our way to report a negative experience, but so seldom take the time when it was great customer service. It’s a great goal to have!

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