When you mess up my order . . . and you will . . . here is what I expect.
This rant starts with a meal I recently ordered in an airport --fast food for myself and my son. Our order was not difficult. Two hamburgers. One with ketchup and pickles for my son. One with ketchup, mustard, lettuce and onions for me. What we got instead was one hamburger with ketchup and mustard, no pickles, and one cheeseburger with tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, and mayo. Not the worst "muck up" I've ever experienced but still decidedly wrong . . . and far too common. If you, like I do, engage in patronizing these places, then I ask you, "Have you noticed the slippage in the ability of employees to get orders right?" It seems to have changed remarkably in the past couple of decades. (Are we having more receptive language issues? Is this a case of English as a second language? Or, am I just becoming a grumpy old man?) But what surprises me even more is the response . . . or more correctly, the lack of response, to being informed that they have messed up your order!
Not long ago I was eating at a fast food place that really does seem to take customer service seriously. But, as we all know, everybody makes mistakes and they got something wrong in my order. What surprised me, and then surprised me that I was surprised, was that when I informed them of the error the person actually seemed to feel a sense of shame or guilt (unintended on my part), made me feel like she really was sorry and cared that it wasn't correct, then brought me something extra for my trouble. I realized how different this was from my typical experience.
What is the typical experience? Maybe a shrug. Taking the bag and dropping it into the trash. Informing the cook, flatly or sarcastically of the mistake, and then . . . silence. Maybe a muttered "sorry" when the correct food comes but it certainly does NOT feel like the apology is heartfelt or that errors are considered "bad" and intent is to make them infrequent for that matter. The predominant feeling I think is one of indifference . . . if not out right irritation (at me, the coworker, their life?). Maybe its a new business model . . . waste is a cost of doing business . . . but I doubt most owners or upper managers look at it that way.
What do you expect when someone messes up?
In order to be clear about what I expect let me, first, tell you what I do not expect in my service providers. After that I will list what I do expect and then after presenting these bullet lists I will finish with what I think is the perfect story to illustrate the point I have been trying to make.
Here are things I don't expect:
- You to really care (acting like it is good enough)
- To perform without errors
- Heart-felt shame or guilt
- Defending your misunderstanding, communication, processes, etc.
- Something free for my "inconvenience" (I mean really how inconvenient is it to wait two minutes to get the food ordered to your perfect expectations. If you still think this is a big deal . . . do some research on the third world as a reality check.)
- Any preferential treatment in the future
Here's what I do expect:
- Look me in the eyes and apologize first
- Take the time to understand what was incorrect so there is not a "third time" to get it right
- Do not be sarcastic, demeaning, or critical of your coworkers even if it was their mistake (you see if you are nice to me as a customer and mean to a co-worker I no longer trust that you really care about me . . . you are just putting up a front to get my business)
- Let me go sit down and bring me the correct replacement
- Apologize again when you bring the correct item, thank me for my patience (I try to always be patient), and ask if there is anything else you can do
Hey, well, there are the lists. Now for the disappointment . . . or so I image it will be a disappointment. There is no story. You see, I messed up. Although in my case it was intentional. I want to illustrate the idea of failing to meet expectations. Yes, the promise of the story was simply a writer's trick. The truth is there is, and never was, a story. I do feel bad about playing this little trick on you, my readers, and I promise not to do it again. Notice how your expectations play a role in how you react to my little ruse . . . and how I should respond.
As always, I would love to hear any comments you have or any suggestions for topics you would like me to address. Once again, sorry about the lame ending.
Thanks for reading and especially for those who take the time to respond!