customer service

Hey Chick-fil-A: No, it’s ‘MY’ Pleasure

Think common courtesy is outdated and great customer service is obsolete? Then you probably haven’t visited your local Chick-fil-A restaurant.

I stopped at mine for a bite to eat on Saturday night (a day after Cow Appreciation Day) and was confronted by an uncharacteristically warm hospitality – particularly for a fast-food restaurant.

The experience started when I pulled up to a backed-up drive-thru, dreading an inevitably long wait. But remarkably, it was one of the speediest, most efficient drive-thru lines I’ve ever navigated.

My order was taken by a cordial guy, who immediately comprehended it, repeated it back (correctly!) and replied to my “Thank you” with a genuine-sounding “My pleasure.”

Nice.

When I arrived at the pick-up window, my bag was awaiting me, accompanied by a pleasant woman who greeted me and efficiently completed the transaction. She eagerly responded to my “Thanks” with a familiar refrain: “My pleasure.”

Nice.

So how can Chick-fil-A achieve this high level of service when its fast-food brethren falls miserably short?

I won’t pretend to know the secret formula, but I think it’s safe (and logical) to assume that it boils down to hiring great people, treating them well, providing them with a nice environment, and holding them to high standards. I’m sure a killer training program is part of the equation.

The resulting culture of respect shapes employees who exude pride (the good kind).

Founder – and current Chairman – S. Truett Carty has never been shy in proclaiming that he built the business on traditional “Christian principles,” including an uncommon-in-the-retail-world practice of staying closed on Sundays. It also supports numerous community service activities and sometimes-controversial alliances.

 

The formula seems to be working at the $3.5 billion chain, which has more than 1500 locations in 39 U.S. states and continues aggressive expansion despite the anemic economy.

Next time I visit my local restaurant, I plan to play a little game. Not only will I say “Thanks” to every crew member I encounter, but I’ll kick it up a notch by responding to their “My pleasure” with a quick retort of my own: “No, it’s MY pleasure.”

I’ll be curious to see if their responses are equally as cheerful and consistent.

Regardless, I gladly join those famous cows in exhorting everyone to:

Eat-more-chikin

 

 

 

Bobbing for an Apple: In Pursuit of an iPad 2

Apple2

That was the scene at about 7 a.m. on Saturday at the Apple store in suburban St. Louis. Scads of eager iPad 2 cravers. Bleary-eyed, but hopeful we would emerge in a couple of hours with a shiny new device (or two).

I had arrived at about 6:45 a.m., earning spot #25, which was noted on the ragged cardboard square handed to me by a cheerful security guard (“You here for a computer?” she asked, to which I responded, “I think.”)

Little did I know my tentativeness would be so well-founded.

Turns out the majority of us early-rising lemmings would leave the building clutching little more than deflated tablet dreams.

At about 7:30, a well-meaning Apple employee explained to the growing crowd that the “inventory specialist” was currently reviewing all the available stock and would join us at about 8:30 to hand out vouchers that matched each person with his or her chosen device(s). He delivered the same speech several times, moving down the line of consumers so everyone could have the benefit of hearing the process.

“That’s nice of him,” I thought, while hoping the thorough approach meant the store had substantial stock to distribute to its 100+ waiting customers. 

Then promptly at 8:30, the “Inventory Specialist” made his anticipated entrance, explaining that they actually only had three models available: a white WiFi 64GB (the device I wanted), a black Verizon 3G 16GB and another one. Once again, he moved through the crowd, repeating the roster several times so the entire throng could hear his spiel.

What happened next is sort of a blur, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t even reach customer #10 before announcing they were completely sold out.

Talk about a total mood killer.

Several in the crowd just peacefully dispersed (I’m guessing it wasn’t their first time around this block…)

Others thought this dude had some ‘splainin’ to do
– “How many iPads did you actually have”?
– “Why can’t you tell us earlier when your stock is low”?
– “How come you didn’t you get any AT&T models”?

His sheepish responses amounted to: “We don’t have control of what they send to us,“ “We’re not allowed to disclose specific numbers” and “You’re welcome to try again a different morning.

Not exactly stick-to-your-ribs answers.

But my fellow buffoons and I left the premises without incident, feeling more than a little disappointed and taken advantage of. 

I’ve read all sorts of conjecture that Apple may be intentionally stockpiling its inventory to drive demand (and ongoing publicity) for its newest, hottest product. But I find it hard to believe that Apple intentionally wants to piss off its customer base – and when 90 percent of customers leave a store completely dissatisfied, it strikes me as a real customer-service problem.

Alas, Apple ain’t talking – or delivering.

And so, I will live another day (or week/month/etc.) without experiencing the joys of Flipboard, Netflix, Dropbox, Google Earth and Twitter on the iPad.

I’ll live.

If only there were a suitable substitute 

Afterword:

Given the recent tragedy in Japan, unrest in the Middle East and cancellation of “Two and a Half Men,” I know my iPad envy is fairly insignificant. OK, it’s ridiculously insignificant.

But cut me some slack here. I willingly chose to delay purchasing an iPad until the second-generation device was introduced. Now that it’s here, I’m ready to finally satisfy this pent-up desire.

Cardboard

For the scrapbook: the official number denoting my place in the pack.