Saturday, October 13, 2007

Customer Service is Dead

My cold fries and wrong change sent me a message: Here comes the end of customer service.

In recent weeks I have come to the realization that the tight labour market has sent employers scrambling to hire anyone with a heartbeat. Because of this, I will never have hot fries, a correct order, or a free smile again! My beer will just sit there empty all night unless I interrupt the waiter and bartender's conversation. Because there are less people willing to flip burgers or the double-double button, it is more difficult to enforce customer service standards through firing and hiring someone new. In fact, they have recently invented a new job category: "Full-time Problem" - reserved for the workers employers wish they could fire but they hang onto them because they are slightly better than no one at all. In the end, you can say good-bye to the time when you could go to McDonald's and have them tell you that you are right.

And NO! Raising wages will not magically bring forth enough people (although maybe some) into the workforce; just ask my friend Neil in Alberta; it might help in the short-run to attract the best, but as time goes on all wages rise. And then, you got it, the end of customer service.

Yes! This is sad. From now on every time I travel I will expect only the worst from that highway A&W. And I am reminded each time I step into a Timmy's by the help wanted sign.

Why does this hit me so hard? For several summers I worked at McDonald's and Eastside Mario's to save money for university. I remember being happy that I had a job and I remember competing for my position and the hours I got. From all the help wanted signs on Spring Garden road, including the $100 signing bonus at Subway, I am sure I would be less concerned about loosing my job if I was 15 yrs old today. It must be nice to not care.

In summary, fast food is no long fast. Expect less. And if you get good service, tip really well in hopes that they will be there next time you visit. Lastly, if you think this just applies to low-end cookin' just wait ...


Francis Wooby said...

Don't write off good eats and pleasant service just yet. I think if you're willing to keep trying out new places, be so daring as to patronize a non-chain establishment and shell out a few more bucks per meal, you'll be able to find what you're looking for. I never expected much out of McDonald's, A&W, Eastside Mario's or any other sterile, predictable, mass-produced culinary experience. Their business models really don't do a good job of cultivating the employee's overall experience, loyalty to the brand and thus good service. They, like most other industries in North America, are now facing a workforce hostile to the idea of being treated like anything less than royalty, and paid handsomely for it. The smaller places, though, often run by families, are committed to the community, which includes their staff, as well as the bottom line. This, I think, might prove a more worthy investment than cheaper napkins from even more desperate regions of China, which is the sort of thing chain restaurant owners have on the brain.

MadJenny said...

I kind of think the lack of good customer service in a lot of places is all part of the growing trend towards a lack of politeness and decorum in general in society.

I have to say, I am on the other side of customer service - in that I do customer service as part of my job for a good chunk of the day, every day. And the way people talk to me, and the way they behave towards their children/parents/friends in front of me, in a public place, is often pretty horrifying. I try to provide excellent services - with a smile, always polite, going the extra mile, all of that. But what I get back from many of the customers is rudeness. Plain and simple. Not all of them, I have lot's of really lovely customers. But a good chunk of the population just has no clue how to behave in a customer situation. And it can be really disheartening, and make you a little bit strained by the end of your time there.

Canadian Economist said...

Thank you very much for your comments. It is nice to hear from both of you.
FW: I agree. Like the Dairy Deli in Halifax and Chediac's in New Glasgow, there are a few family owned and operated businesses that never let me down. Sadly, when I am on the road I am left stuck with franchises. But wait! Maybe we should start blog or facebook group that provides google-earth-tag-things of great family restaurants?

MJF: I hope you are wrong, and I fear you are right. How depressing. Perhaps you need a button or a sign that reads: Rude people can SHUSH as they leave the library. Or something like that. Or get a paint ball gun.

Francis Wooby said...

Speaking of rude people in the library, what the hell is the deal with cell phones? When did it become okay for patrons to air their obnoxious, inane, one-sided conversations aloud in the middle of the library? Is it equally acceptable for me to beat them to death with their own phones?

MadJenny said...

Dude. The cell phones are enough to drive one up a tree. We have signs everywhere saying they can't use them, we spend half our lives telling people to stop using them, our security guards are forever telling people not to use them, and still, I come out of my office to a sea of people attached to phones.

I've heard that driving while talking on the cell phone gives you an equivalently poor driving ability to intoxication. So I always wonder what these people blathering away on their phones while "studying" can possibly be achieving that will in any way benefit them.

And a paint ball gun sounds like a fun idea! Or maybe a silly string sprayer.

My favourite customer service in Halifax is The Spartan. It is kind of terrible, but in a thoroughly delightful and eccentric way. The ladies have so much character that you just want to go back all the time to watch them in action.

Canadian Economist said...

I feel like I need a big sign that says: Yes, everyone can hear you and you have to the count of 3 to stop before I take your cellphone and break it: 3. Or let's go with a can the silly string (one in each hand, no warning).