What’s Happened to Customer Service?

receipts2_full1Dare I say customer service is dead…or at least dying!?!  In my humble estimation, ever since the economy has taken a downward turn so has the quality of customer service.  Or possibly my attention to detail has heightened since this time and I’m now expecting more.  Either way, the outcome remains the same; I believe the quality of my service has diminished.

Take tonight for example, we went to Pizza Hut for dinner.  We arrived approximately ten minutes after 5:00 pm (on a Tuesday), there were at that time three other occupied tables; two of which had already been served.  There was apparently only one server for the entire floor; although the server who sat us was not this person.  Our drinks were taken, promptly delivered, our order taken and that’s when everything fell apart.  Here was our order: 1 medium hand tossed sausage pizza, a single order of regular bread sticks and 2 salads (which we were responsibl to acquire ourselves from the salad bar).  

I estimate that from the time our order was taken our bread sticks took ten to twelve minutes to arrive at our table; which I don’t mind all that much, except for the fact that they were somewhat cooled obviously having sat for a few minutes.  In defense of our server three other tables had arrived and her attentions had to be split now six ways (or was it five as one of the original tables had left…either way…).

As we ate our salads, our now cold bread sticks the level of our drinks quickly lowered.  Typically not problematic unless of course there is never the request for a refill offered.  I sat and watched the three tables that had come in and ordered after us receive break sticks, and then pizzas, and still we sat with no pizza and no refills.  Oh, but we did have an increasingly discontent toddler with us.

Finally after having served all the tables in the dinning room, refilled all the drinks–minus ours–our server informs us she had lost our ticket and our pizza would be out shortly.  More waiting ensued; still no refills mind you.  Lest you think she didn’t notice, she couldn’t have not noticed for she preceded to stop and slightly frighten Lily several times never once taking notice of our drinks–or lack there of.

Finally after nearly an hour since placing our order we were informed our pizza was on it’s way.  At which point I informed our server we’d take it in a box.  Five minutes later out came our pizza, boxed along with our bill.  Never once offering an apology, rather pretending as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

Upon paying my bill, I was asked by the manager how everything was.  My reply, “It was alright.”  “Just alright?  Not great?” replied the manager.  “No, the service was quite slow, we now have to eat our pizza at home.”  The reply…silence.  Well, isn’t that just Jim-stinkin’-dandy!!!  Seriously, where has the customer service gone?

I’m sure some of you are wondering, did I tip?  I did, but only $1.00.  Was this rude and out of line?  Maybe by some.  Personally I don’t feel it was.  I have to believe that in a job were a tip is expected it need to be earned, or at least make an effort.  Pretent if you have to, but try.  Please just don’t expect the tip because that’s the way it’s always been.  Times are tough, money is tight, my expectations apparently are high.

In an interesting turn of events, I found myself tonight at the local coffee shop to study.  Purchasing only a $2.00 cup of coffee and proceeding to take up space for the next two hours, plus utilize the free wifi I was sent along my way at closing time with the words, “Thanks so much for stopping in, hope you come back again!”  Value.  That’s what it was I felt.  Valued.  My $2.00 meant something to them.  My choosing their coffee over Starbucks or the stuff in my cupboard counted for something in their eyes.  And their warm words of thanks counted for something in mine.

Please tell me customer service is not dead or dying.  Please tell me my experience tonight at the coffee shop is the norm, rather than the exception.  Please tell me you plan to work for me as your customer regardless of a tip, because the service industry is still about service to the customer.

Ahh, maybe I hope for the wrong thing.  Maybe I’m out of line.  Maybe I expect where I shouldn’t.  Maybe it is the way it is.  But I hope not…


5 thoughts on “What’s Happened to Customer Service?

  1. Service has definitely taken a downturn… Probably because people who have never waited tables before are having to turn to it to make a few extra bucks… or to make their mortgages. Sadly, servers tend to see people as dollar signs (I admit that I do at times), but, at least in my case, I do everything I possibly can to give my guests great service, both to increase my tip (which sometimes ends up not increasing, because some people are just bad tippers) and to make sure they leave happy and come back. Everyone has bad experiences from customer service sometimes… but that just makes the good service that much better.

  2. Ryan,

    I just caught this post on Facebook and thought that I’d chime in as I am now currently involved in the food industry, and have been for quite some time.

    You had two very different experiences. First, you have a server who is working exclusively for tips. Even though tipping is a custom and not required, a server does make about 85% of their wages from tips. Second, you have a person working at a coffee shop who probably only sees a few pennies out of your $2.00 in wages and maybe a tip (if you left one). So you have a person working for an immediate wage (a tip) and a person working for a steady wage (increased and consistent business).

    A restaurant works (usually) in the fashion that a server serves the guest and then receives their tip (payment or wages) at the end of that guest’s experience with the restaurant. If a guest tip is not proportionate to the work the server did, the likelihood that the server’s customer service is as good in the future goes down dramatically the next time the guest and the server are in contact with one another.

    On the other hand, you have a coffee shop that probably does most of its business from repeat customers. Even though that person might have been genuine in inviting you to return, they probably are also hoping that you come back again and spend more money there. That’s why they have free wi-fi and comfy chairs and cool music and all sorts of other things.

    Quite honestly, and this goes for me as well even though I wish it didn’t, in this economy, customer service is only based on what each party in the transaction can gain. If the consumer doesn’t get what they feel they are paying for, they don’t spend their money again or spend less in the future. If the employee or company doesn’t feel like they are receiving enough compensation for their efforts or goods, they begin to lower their customer service to where it’s proportionate to their compensation to the point, in your case, of partially ignoring the customer all together.

    It’s a vicious cycle, but definitely one that’s brought on by human being’s sense of entitlement and intensified by the receding economy.

    PS. I probably would have tipped the server $1 too.

  3. 2 Points…

    I agree with Annie that we are beginning to see more people not accustomed to the food industry waiting tables as a way to make ends meet. Sadly, this was not the case as our server has worked at Pizza Hut at least as long as I’ve live here (10 years), thus she should know her stuff.

    Jon, I don’t think that in a downtrodden economy now is the time to lower our standards. In fact the opposite should be true. I know it is for my cable co. for example, that never appeared to give 2 cents about me, but now that times are tough and they realize I could drop them at any minute, they are binding over backwards to keep my business. For that is what I am, a business (or a customer). I too have worked in the food industry and am fully aware just how important a tip is to the server; that’s why I strive to be a very good tipper, tipping between 18-22% for “normal” service.

    In fact, I feel that as a Christian I should be a great tipper most all the time. But this situation was beyond bad or abnormal in my estimation and I couldn’t overlook it. Or at least didn’t.

  4. Ryan,

    I agree that now is not the time to lower the standards of customer service, and the restaurant I work at tries everything they can not to do so. But I can’t speak for others.

    But, when you worked in the industry, how many times did you hear servers complain about poor tips? I hear it all the time and I do some of myself sometimes. In fact, servers at the restaurant I work at can usually spot a “poor tipper” right when they walk in the door and probably give them, subconsciously, bad service whether they mean to or not. However, I’d like to think that doesn’t deter me from giving good service to someone else. I can’t say the same about others.

    I think your experience was an extreme case and is probably not (I hope) the norm at other establishments.

  5. well here are my thoughts. i think your $1.00 tip was to much. if she was working there as long as you say, she should know what’s going on. as for the manager, he should have stepped in and given you a discount, “i’m sorry”, or FREE. i never complain about a meal out in public (or at home for that matter), but if i get bad service and the manager asks how everything was, yeah i would tell them in a way that is not mean but honest. ryan, it seems to me that you have been on a bad streek (wings ect. and el maguey).

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