Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Happened to Customer Service?

Today, as a start of a school science experiment for my son, I went to three fast-food restaurants to purchase a small order of French fries. What I found was despicable customer service and an obvious need for these restaurants to remove the "fast" from their branding.

First, it was Burger King. I entered the restaurant because the drive-thru line was rather long. I was third in line. It took almost five minutes to get to me. The cashier almost did not look up from the register to address me; there was no greeting or smile. The best I got was "What can I get you?" I placed my order and then waited over five minutes for a small set of fries; the staff had none out. At almost dinner time, it seems like a bad idea not to have French fries ready. I was given my order and did not receive a "thank you" or a "Happy New Year" or even a "go away and leave me the hell alone." Blank face, complete silence. WOW! It is a very different feeling being a customer of this store. Needless to say, I am not coming back.

Next it was Wendy's. There was a short line at the drive-thru, so I opted for that. The cashier asked me to hold and then disappeared for two minutes; again, no greeting. When he came back, he gave me the customary "Can I take your order?" I drove to the second window and the guy took my money. Five minutes later I still did not have the fries. They must not have fries ready at this restaurant either. I finally see a guy approaching the window with my food; he shoves it out the window without saying a word. I say "thank you" and he closes the window without a word. I was now fuming. I yelled at him and told him he was rude. He cracked open the window and asked me to repeat myself; I told him he was rude, that I deserve at least a "you are welcome" since I had addressed him politely. He said "well, you are welcome." Two for two; that Wendy's will never see me again.

Lastly, a McDonald's. The drive-thru was packed, so I went in. This was perhaps the worst. Two cash registers. I stand on the first one. Of course, that was a bad move. After taking the order ahead of me, the cashier disappears into the back to do something. And now the other line has gone from one customer to six customers. The supervisor starts yelling instructions and tells the cashier to get back to the front. She comes back and starts to argue with the supervisor; back and forth they went. By now, it has been at least five minutes and they have not even taken my order. I finally speak up and ask if they can possibly take my order. A different cashier, younger and very unhappy, comes over and takes my order. I see a bunch of French fry envelopes under the heating lamps, yet it still takes another three minutes for the lady to come back with a bag. She extends her arm at me and, without a word, gives me my food.

I know it is New Year's Eve. I know food service is a tough job. But it never hurts to have some basic customer service skills. Does it hurt to smile and say "Hello!"? Does it take such a great effort to say "Thank you for your order? Come back and see us!"

I think these food service employees need to remember that they are fortunate to have a job. I remember working through Christmas, New Year's, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, etc. It was not fun; but I was grateful for the job and the money. And I was always polite to my customers.

I will voice my comments to all three chains. None of those restaurants should call themselves "fast food" and all of them need some serious refresher on how to be polite to their customers. And all of them have lost my business.