Is Bad Service Your Fault?

Back in January I wrote a post about being a better customer to get better service.  A recent experience makes me think this might need to go a step further.

Linda and I were out and about again, and we stopped into one of our favorite deli/salad bars for a light dinner.  We knew there was a special terminal where you could just order the salad bar and skip the rest of the sandwich line, so we stepped up to the unmanned terminal and we waited.

And waited.

Little did we know that things had changed.  This was still the spot to order just the salad bar, however now this terminal was self-serve.  (As a point of logistical reference, the terminal was facing AWAY from the natural direction people would be approaching, and even after this ordeal we couldn’t find a sign pointing the hungry masses in the right direction.)

After about 30-40 seconds of misguided waiting, a managerial-type walked over and asked if he could help.  He was VERY nice, patient, and explained the process well.  From a service standpoint, he did well, but it was the new process that dominated our dinner conversation.

From a business standpoint, I can see why they did this.  Less labor equals higher profits, or at least flat profits as other costs go up.  However, as a consumer, is it fair for us to pay the same amount for a salad as we did before, considering we are now doing a large portion of the “service-related” work.  Hmmm.

Of course we see this all over the place.  The airport has self-service check-in, Lowe’s and Home Depot (and many others) have self check-out, and it seems more and more that the service we are getting… is from US!

This really got us thinking about the VALUE we place on service (as consumers and as businesses), because that is really the missing link here.  Previously, if a salad was $7.99, we knew part of that money was going to pay the person who took our order.  Now that person (and their service) is gone – so what are we paying for?

As an organization, while this practice might help to show a healthier bottom line, does it de-value the need for actual human beings to serve your customers?  Do we now simply look at positions on the line schedule as a dollar sign, rather than an opportunity to differentiate your business from the rest.

I look at an organization like Men’s Wearhouse.  You are greeted and taken care of by someone who gets to know your needs and recommends things that actually go together (a challenge for most guys).  The price is a little higher, but you know that when you walk out of there you will have a jacket, a tie and pants that all match!

What is the value that YOUR employees provide to your guest’s experience?  Notice I said ‘guest’ this time instead of customer.  A customer is someone who buys stuff, a guest is someone we welcome in and take care of.  Even changing that mindset can have a big impact on the decisions you make when it comes to cutting or eliminating service positions in the name of profits.

So be careful in cutting too many staff positions and replacing them with technology.  It might seem like a good idea because good people are hard to find and you can provide a consistent experience with a computer.  But if that experience is consistently bad, your profits will suffer even more.

Thanks for reading!

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