You never forget your first day

Okay, it’s another food story…

This past Sunday morning I ventured out to our local Einstein’s bagels to pick up a quick breakfast for Linda and I. I was greeted at the register by Viki, an unfamiliar face at this familiar establishment. “She must be new”, I thought to myself… But I had no idea how new.

Viki greeted me with a welcoming smile (which is not always easy at 6:55 am) and asked to take my order. As I placed my Bagelsorder, Viki seemed to get a little befuddled and was searching her POS screen for the right button. This is when Laura stepped in to assist. Laura is the manager who regularly greets customers as they come in, and even notices when you haven’t been in for awhile (does that mean we eat too many bagels?).

Laura was patient with Viki as she walked through the order process. She calmly pointed out which button to hit next, giving little hints along the way. When Viki made a mistake, Laura quietly corrected her so as not to cause a big scene. When it came for the second half of my order, Viki was able to get through it on her own with minimal guidance from Laura.

With a big smile, Viki sent me over to the pick-up area where Laura was already ringing up my check.  I could tell that Viki appreciated Laura’s patience and pointers, and she seemed confident that she would be successful with the next order.

When I got to the other counter, I let Laura know that I noticed what a good job she did in getting Viki through that order.  Laura smiled and said, “Thank you.  You know you never forget your first day.”

So that’s how new Viki was.  Day one.  And here I come with a complicated order…

Seeing Laura there on other occasions, I could tell this was not an isolated incident.  Her demeanor is always positive and she is constantly lending a hand or offering encouragement to her team.

So could there be something in the water in Casselberry, FL?  This Einstein’s is literally down the road from where we got such over the top service at Tijuana Flats.  I bet its something more than just the water…  like people who genuinely care about others and want to see great service carried out.

What a concept.

13 in 30

Have you ever had something go TOO right?  Weird, I know.  But let me explain.

The other night, Linda and I had a lovely dinner at Tijuana Flats in Casselberry, FL.  I got the ultimate beef nachos – completely smothered with all sorts of cheese, sour cream, shredded beef… but now I’m getting hungry.  Let me get back to my story.

The reason this made the blog this week is the number of interactions we had with members of the Tijuana Flats staff on this particular visit.  We counted 13.  Thirteen separate interactions with at least 6 different employees – in less than 30 minutes.

If you haven’t been to Tijuana Flats, its not a full service restaurant where a host seats you, a server takes your order and tijuana flatsthe server and possibly an expediter brings the food to you.  At TF’s, you order at the counter.  When your food is ready they yell your name so the whole place can hear it and you bus your own tables. Typically not a lot of opportunity for staff interaction.

The reason I asked if something could be TOO right, is that we actually felt like 13 interactions in 30 minutes was a bit much.  It was tough to converse with someone asking if we needed a refill on the water every 90 seconds.

Now, this is not a complaint, but an observation.  When most managers are complaining about getting their employees to show up and do the minimum, these folks are gladly, willingly, going out of there way to make sure their customers are satisfied.  Where does this come from?

I’ve been in this particular Tijuana Flats numerous times, and I think it comes down to one thing:  the manager.

Every time I have been in there he is out in the dining room, interacting with customers and offering his service.  He greets people when they come in, offers a cold drink while you are waiting to order, directs people to an open ordering station, explains the hot sauce bar, you name it – he is out there.  Me being me, I also watched him while he wasn’t interacting with the customers.  He was always moving, often talking to one the employees.  He would quietly ask them to clean something, bring something to a customer, help another employee – and always with a please and a thank you.

There is probably more to his management strategy than what I’ve seen, and perhaps the next time I get a hankering for beef nachos I will ask him.  Even if there isn’t, setting such a positive example for customer service sure is a great place to start!

Thanks for reading!


Too dumb to know any better

Sometimes people are determined and are able to overcome insurmountable odds.  Other times, they may just not know any other way.

Case in point…

When Linda and I were planning our trip to Hawaii, I decided that I wanted to take a surfing lesson.  What better place to learn the Sport of Kings than where it originated?  I made sure NOT to bring along the little tiki necklace.  web-surfing-2

What I did bring was a genuine desire to learn how to surf.  It took many tries and a lot of coaching from Smokey and Kuji (our instructors), but it was well worth it.  I was able to get up on the board a few times, but when I seemed to be doing the best, I had to use the first technique they taught us – when in doubt, bail out.  I was headed right for another surfer, so I took a dive.  Literally.

Here’s how it the lesson went.  There were about 12 students and 3 instructors.  They set up a buoy that was “home base”.  We all started at the buoy, and then were called over to the instructors in small groups so they could help us pick our waves.

My first attempt was very successful, if you consider falling immediately and drinking a lot of salt water successful.  As I was paddling back, one of the instructors asked if I was able to stand up that time.  I answered no, and he motioned me back to “wave catching area”.  We tried again and I did a little better.

Each time I fell (which was every time), I paddled back to the instructors for another go.  I didn’t notice that other students had decided to camp out at the buoy.  Some were tired, or had just had enough.  I didn’t know resting was an option, so I just kept coming back for more.  I didn’t know when I would be in Hawaii again, so I wanted to make the most of it.

hawaii-wed-surf-016Laying on that board for almost 2.5 hours taught me a couple of things.

  1. If you keep your head up (like in the picture on the right) the entire time, your neck WILL get sore.
  2. Even though paddling through the chop was tough, I really enjoyed the experience, and can’t wait to do it again.
  3. To achieve a goal, sometimes it’s better to be a little ignorant of the obstacles.

When we know too much, or think too much, about the obstacles that stand in our way, we sometimes mentally give in to them.  We tell ourselves things can’t be done (there’s that ‘can’t’ again) and allow ourselves to give up or accept a lesser result.

So… forget about the buoy.  You don’t need it anyway.

Thanks for reading!


“Don’t tell me what you can’t do…”

So I’ll admit this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine – and it happened twice in the last week.

Twice this week I have been on the phone with some very nice “customer service agents” who could not help me in the way I needed.  What I was asking for was not that unreasonable (to me), but they were unable to provide it.  So, I asked to speak with their supervisor.mad-at-phone

Here’s were the pet peeve comes in (it wasn’t because they were following their procedures – that I can respect).

Both agents, as if reading from a script, said, “I can transfer you, but they can’t do anything more than I can.”

In my experience, people (especially the public we serve) don’t like to hear that they can’t do something.  First of all, it’s not very optimistic.  For that reason alone I would rather hear about what CAN be done, or at the very least, leave it neutral.  I would have much rather heard, “Sure, I can transfer you.  One moment, please.”

Whether the next person on the phone could or would do anything different is irrelevant.  At least I didn’t hear the “can’t”.  That drives me nuts.

I guess one reason that statement bothered me is that they don’t really know what the next person might say.  Of course they have the same policies to adhere to, but as you “escalate” (as one company called it), the people higher up the food chain typically have more leeway to make decisions.  One person said he was the “highest point of escalation.”  I then asked if he had a boss (a trick I learned from my Dad) and of course he said yes.  My response was, “then you are not the highest point of escalation.”

The other reason “can’t” bugs me so much is that its as if they aren’t even trying.  No matter what we say, the answer is the same. Nope.  Can’t.  Don’t want to.  Na, na, na-boo-boo…

As I look back, I don’t even think I would have wanted to escalate the call if I hadn’t heard “can’t” so many times.  Even if they said, “I don’t think I can help you, let me see if my supervisor is available”, that would have at least shown that they were owning the problem, and that they wanted me to think they were helping.

I guess that’s the bottom line.  When I hear, “I can’t”, to me it means, “I have no interest in trying to solve this problem.”  That means they are not on my side, and if they are not with me, they’re against me.

Wow.  No wonder this is a pet peeve!