Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Losing or Winning Customers?

Friday and Saturday I had two very different customer service experiences.

Friday evening my wife and I took my step-daughter out for her birthday, and she wanted to go to Applebees. I happen to know the Human Resources Director and Marketing Director for Applebees and because of this, I have some inside info on what's supposed to happen when you visit.

Our waitress and the rest of the staff did everything perfectly. This was the first time I've visited Applebees for dinner, I usually stop by for lunch. Now they get my recommendation for dinner too. Despite showing up at 6:15 to a full house, they found a spacious booth for the three of us and we were done by 7pm including desert!

Saturday, I visited Arby's for a diet Mt. Dew and I decided to try one of the Junior Deluxe Sandwiches. I went to an Arby's that I've never been to and it was terrible. I visit an Arby's 4 times a week, mostly for breakfast or lunch and they usually have good, speedy service. Not this time though.

I walked in and there were no other customers inside and just one car at the drive thru. I heard voices but didn't seen any employees for about 45 seconds. When they saw me, they seemed surprised and I asked if they had diet Mt. Dew because I didn't see it on their menu board.

Her answer, with a big sigh, "No".

Then she just stared at me.

I stared back.

Finally I told her my order, a Junior Deluxe and a small diet Pepsi to go. She pushed some buttons on her register and then said, "Fer here or ta go?"

I repeated, "To go please."

"$3.75", were her next words.

I gave her a 5.

She gave me my change and walked away.

It seemed to be talking an awful long time, so I glanced at the screen that counts down how long it takes for an order to be completed and when the timer hit 4:23, she reappeared and set my order on the counter, on a tray.

Since I don't take tray's when my order is to go, I took my food off the tray and walked out.

Oh, three more things,

The manager was laughing about the drive-up customer that changed their order and calling him a dumb-XXit. And the young lady who took my order, answered the phone while I was waiting for my food and was talking to someone on the other end about what they were going to do that night. Maybe that's why she couldn't remember my order was to go.

And the restroom, let's just say it needed a LOT of attention.

My wife and I both commented to each other Friday night about how nice our Applebees experience and I bet we'll be back for dinner on a regular basis. That means more money going to Applebees because of the way they handled themselves. That's how you Win Customers.

When I got in my car with my Arby's sandwich and drink, the first thing I did was post on 4 square, twitter and facebook or terrible the service was at this particular Arbys. This is how you Lose Customers. Not just me, but anyone of the 1500 plus people who are friends or follow me on the social networks.

What lessons can we learn from this?

  1. Have a customer service plan.
  2. Make sure your employees know it, and do it and you'll all benefit.
  3. Bad news spreads even faster with the social media tools customers have and unless you are on top of this, you could lose more customers than you can recruit.


  1. Moral of the story: eat at Jimmy John's Scott!

  2. Yeah, I've always had good service at JJ's