Biting the hand that could feed you

This I don’t get. If you are in a service business, one that counts on your customers choosing you over another provider, does it make sense to berate potential customers for NOT choosing you? I hope you are all saying, “well, duh! Who would do that?” You’d be surprised.

I’ve now run across two situations in the past 10 years where that’s exactly what happened. You might be thinking that two times in 10 years is statistically insignificant, but not when you consider the impact of these actions and my outlook to never deal with these companies again. Let me explain.

The first situation dates back to my days at Valleyfair in Shakopee, MN. I was in charge of putting our trash service up for bid, which is a big deal considering how much trash an amusement park creates on a given day. The final decision came down to two providers: one that is a national brand with a big name (possibly featured on Undercover Boss), the other was a local, home-grown company that was hungry to land a big client.

Based on the cost and the service we anticipated, we chose the local guys. When the call was made to the national chain, I was told that I made a mistake, I’ll regret my choice and that I didn’t know what I was doing. Really? Did this person not realize that we might put the trash service up for bid again in a few years, just to make sure we’re still getting the best deal and service available? I guess he wasn’t thinking that far ahead. (I also wonder what the “undercover boss” would have thought of this interaction!)

The second instance occurred just last week when my wife and I contacted a local contractor (lets call him Jack) to bid on a paver driveway. We had already gotten one bid, but wanted a second opinion to compare it to.

When we chose not to avail ourselves of Jack’s services, he similarly got agitated, questioned our decision making and I think, was trying to guilt us into going with him because of all the work he did on the bid. Sorry, a bid is just that-a bid. No promises.

I have to ask myself, were these two folks probably proud of the service they could provide and rightly upset that they were not chosen (thus losing sales)? Sure, so I can’t fault them for feeling that way. My beef is with the way they reacted to the news of not being chosen and the short-sightedness they both displayed by not realizing we may need them in the future, or even that we might – gasp – talk to others about our poor experience with them as a business, not just their end product.

Maybe it ultimately comes down to realizing that with a few exceptions, ALL businesses are service businesses. You may pull trash, install driveways, sell furniture, provide financial advice, or put people on a crazy contraption that flips them this way and that way to the point of almost losing their lunch. In each instance, there is a transaction of service. And in the case of submitting a bid, there is service before you get to the service. It can be a long process! What does that look like for you?

Getting back to our title, many of us know that we shouldn’t bite the hand that is currently feeding us. Duh. I think we also need to be aware of how we treat potential customers… otherwise they turn into non-customers and eventually we starve.

Thanks for reading.

Dress Code or Service? Chipotle wins, too!

As a follow-up to my post about Radio Shack, I also have a story to spin about a recent trip Linda and I took to Chipotle.  My friend Scott Brown also had a great experience there, so this account shows the consistency of service that is sometimes lost on organizations with many locations spread all over the place (Scott lives in Ohio, I’m in Florida).

Linda and I first tried Chipotle when we were dating.  She hated it.  There was nothing good about it, so when considering dining options in the future, I never brought it up (even though my friend Ryan will tell you that I think they have the best flippin’ tacos ever!)

So, last Saturday we were out and about.  Out of the blue we decide to give Chipotle a try.  We were greeted by a long, but fast-moving line, and then we met the employee that knocked our service socks off.  He wasn’t wearing a nametag, but had a distinctive feature that was hard to forget.

We’re not talking about the barbed wire – it was a nose ring.  Like in my Radio Shack encounter, I could have expected less than stellar attention from this young man, based on judgments of his appearance.  Instead, he was efficient, polite, driven, hygienic (changing gloves for every order) and accommodating to his guests.  The two women before us had difficulty understanding his questions, so at first he helped by pointing to and standing in front of the item he was asking them about.  When that failed, he noticed they spoke Spanish, so he jumped in with some Spanish of his own.  The line kept moving.

We also noticed that this employee had some pretty extensive ink on his legs.  It looked like a picture was started on one leg and continued on the other.  From an artistic standpoint, a work of art.  From an employment standpoint, a typical no-no.

Linda LOVED her meal this time!  As much as we regaled in the outstanding eats, we also spent a good portion of the meal stating how we would come back here for the service, as much as the food.

If I were to compare the Radio Shack experience and the Chipotle experience, I would say that most likely, the management teams have decided that hiring the right people, regardless of outward appearances, is the way to go.

I also think from an employee standpoint, they probably feel like they can be more “themselves” at work because they are not being asked to change or cover-up who they are.  This makes them more likely to be the shining star you met during the interview. Just thought about that angle last night while chatting with a friend.  Might be something to that.

What sort of service experiences have YOU had recently?  What does it say about the leadership of that company? Let us know!

Thanks for reading!