Have you ever been the recipient of faux customer service? It’s service with a saccharin smile—plastic, mechanical and insincere. Not genuine, not caring and certainly not the kind of service that makes you sit up and say, “Wow!”
I recently wrote about exceptional customer service that surprised and delighted—service that can have a positive and lasting impact on your brand. The kind of customer service I am writing about here, though, is deflating and harmful to brands. It rings hollow and leaves you feeling disappointed, even cheated.
We hear a lot about authentic leadership these days. “Genuine,” “heartfelt,” “mission-driven”—these are words associated with authentic leaders who connect with their employees and customers. So why can’t customer service have that same authentic connection?
It’s getting to the point where I cringe when I hear the following words because they’ve become so inauthentic:
“How are we doing today?”
“Are you finding everything okay?”
“Has everything been to your satisfaction?”
“How is your meal?”
Usually, when these words are uttered, you can bet they are not heartfelt or genuine. They are said without much feeling, and the person mouthing them moves on before you even have a chance to mouth back an equally empty response about everything being “just fine.”
I get particularly irked at restaurant servers, who interrupt your meal to ask you how the food is. It’s pretty evident they are going through the motions.
I was recently at a well-known pizza restaurant in Arlington for dinner. A young assistant manager stopped by our table to ask how the food was. I looked at our empty table and then looked up at her and said, “What food? We haven’t been served yet.”
The young lady blurted out an apology and then hurried off, never to be seen again. She could have easily recovered from her faux pas and delivered excellent customer service by simply saying, “I’m terribly sorry that you haven’t been served yet. I will go check on your order, and then I’ll be right back.”
Contrast that experience with one a few weeks later when I met a client for lunch at a restaurant in Springfield. Even though each of us had asked the hostess to be on the lookout for the other party, we somehow missed each other. My client got seated at a table upstairs while I waited downstairs in the lobby.
By the time we discovered each other, almost half an hour had gone by. We mentioned it to the hostess, and she said she would ask the manager to stop by our table. Sure enough, a manager did come by towards the end of our meal. She apologized for our inconvenience, but she also backed up her apology with action: She took one of the meals off our bill and gave us a gift card towards a future visit.
She did all of this without hesitation. Her demeanor was professional. No big fuss, but it was clear that she understood we had been inconvenienced. Both my client and I left feeling much better about the snafu.
Which restaurant am I most likely to go back to?
If you’re going to do customer service, then do it right. Make it authentic. Empower your people to wow your customers. In fact, make it clear that is what you expect. Anything less is simply faux customer service.
Nice one, Jay. I sometimes feel the pain of the employees forced to be so sweet. My favorite one of all time is a supermarket chain in Florida that makes the check-out clerks strike up disingenuous conversation. You’re buying hamburgers and buns and the next thing you know you’re hearing how much they love a sizzling grilled burger after work. “Having friends join you? That’s one of my favorite things to do.” I kid you not.
Robert, thanks for sharing. A good example of how not to do customer service. 🙂 – Jay