Save the American Dream

There is a picture on my desk which reads “Discovery: A company that will go to the ends of the earth for its people will find that it can hire them for about 10% of the cost of Americans.” As a stateside call center, we are always competing with offshore (overseas) alternatives with respect to cost, but the only reason they are so inexpensive is because no one is holding them accountable to pay fair wages to their workers. When companies don’t treat their employees with dignity and respect, the employees feel devalued which is reflected in their work.  The sad thing is this isn’t just happening in call centers, it’s happening all over the country in every service business.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who owns a small business and we both came to the agreement that while corporate America has some perks, it’s equally killing the American dream. When was the last time you drove down a street somewhere and didn’t see a name you were familiar with? How often do you attempt to shop local over the big box store? While it may appear big box stores can be great for innovators who create new products, what about service businesses?

Each one of you has had a negative customer service experience with a chain store. We’ve all done it, threatened, even if it was internally, to “never come back to this store again” only to return a couple days, weeks or months later because there either wasn’t another option or the other option was “too expensive.” It’s the American way of giving in. We’ve given up making big businesses work for our dollar and given into the idea that price is more important than anything else. We’ve gotten to the point in our culture that service has lost its value but it’s all we complain about. You can scour the internet for reviews of just about anything, from restaurants to car repair shops and the biggest complaint you’ll see is in regards to service. You’ll also notice, in general, the local shops have better reviews regarding service, they work for each dollar they earn through providing the best experience possible.

What’s the big deal? If we can get things cheaper, we’ll deal with a bad experience, right? The bigger picture is, what’s more important. Every day businesses shut their doors because they couldn’t afford to service their customers. Without local businesses, the major chains and big box stores no longer have to provide their customers with an engaging and positive experience. There is no accountability where there is no competition. Case in point, in many areas of our country there is only one internet provider to chose from and when you call their customer support, it’s usually not met with a happy voice ready to serve you. Why not? Because there’s no reason for that company to spend the time and money on your experience when they know they’re going to retain you as a customer anyway.

So, the next time you’re ready to spend money you worked hard to earn, ensure you’re spending that money on the companies who are working equally hard to earn it. Life is all about enjoying the ride, so don’t continue to settle for negative experiences, voice your concerns and spend your money elsewhere.

A Perfect Example

My family and I went to try the new Habit Burger in our town. Their marketing genius of their slightly addicting game app brought us into the restaurant but the customer service is what will keep us going back. It got me wondering about the importance of customer service in businesses. Is it as important to the consumer as the product?

We walked into a pristine restaurant (of course, it’s new), but the line was long and slightly slower than it probably should be for a quick dining experience. We ordered our food from a wonderfully friendly cashier who was happy to give us suggestions or explain anything about the menu. We wrestled through the crowd to find a seat, put the little one in the high chair and waited for our buzzer to light up signaling our food was ready. While we waited, I watched as employees would walk through the dining room, wiping down tables, asking patrons if they would like their tray taken away or if they wanted a refill. Were they really putting the customer first? Anyone with a little restaurant experience will be able to say not only does that add to the customer experience, it’s also more efficient as the quicker the table will turn around. Nevertheless, the people that were helping seemed very happy to assist and it was amazing to see genuine customer service in action. Finally, the flashing lights of the buzzer notified us our food was complete.

Ron brought the food back to the table, informing me his burger was dressed improperly and they would be bringing him another. As I was getting the baby’s food together, I realized the avocado I requested and paid for was not on the burger and made mention of it to my husband. The employee who was cleaning the table next to us happened to overhear my conversation and came over to ask what he could get me as he heard something wasn’t right. Wow…now that’s customer service! Not only did he get the avocado I requested, he also grabbed me some silverware for the baby and sent the manager over to apologize for the mistake, accompanied by a free burger for our next visit. We were shocked at the high level of customer service throughout the experience and it got us talking.

If the food wasn’t anything to write home about, would people still return? What role does customer service play in the guest experience? In our family, if the food is spectacular but the experience is anything but, we generally don’t return. It works in other aspects as well. We’re happy to pay for a maid service who treats us like family even if we could get the service for $15 cheaper somewhere else, we are happy to get our car serviced by a mechanic that is open, honest and friendly even if the service is no different than the guy down the road who is grumpy and doesn’t talk much.

I’d like to know if our family is different than most. Is the customer service the key to your return? Should customer service be the largest priority in any business?