The other day I was driving past a global fast-food giant’s outlet and noticed a big signboard – ‘NOW 9 AM to 1 AM’. It was just 9 AM then; I thought to have a quick meal. But the drive-through gates were closed.
I waited there for about 10 mins. A security person walked to my car and said -“Sir it will take another 15 ~ 20 mins”. When I said it was already 10 mins past 9, he said “I just enquired with the staff and they said that it would take time as they are having their morning meeting”. I decided to wait. Waited for another 15 mins. I could see a few staff members walking in and out of the staff gate, which is right next to the drive-thru’ lane. They noticed a few cars waiting in the drive-thru queue but ignored to acknowledge.
Finally, gates were open and I reached the counter for ordering. Out of curiosity, I asked the person taking my order about the delay. His responses without any hesitation while processing my order were:
‘We work till 1 AM and it takes time in the morning’
‘We can’t take orders until appliance temperatures are ok’
‘We were here but preparing ourselves’
I kept listening to the flood of reactions (excuses) to my simple question.
I noticed that he was having an issue with his system. I paid the amount and was waiting for the receipt before I drive to the delivery counter. After a couple of mins, he gives me a strange look and said ‘delivery at the next counter’. When I asked him about the receipt, he said that the machine was not working. I drove to the next counter.
Here too no shortage of surprises. This person first asked me for the receipt. Then he understood the problem and started delivering my order. He did not have the beverage that I had ordered. Apparently, the machine was down. He decided to give another beverage without checking with me. I politely refused his decision and went for another beverage.
I visited this restaurant multiple times in the past, usually for lunch/dinner. I never had such a bad experience. Probably, this was an exception or it’s a routine in the morning.
In either case, some of the things that they could have focused on:
- Instead of excuses, should have acknowledged the problem (and tried to find a solution)
- When I asked about the delay, he could have acknowledged my pain; and should have started thinking about the solution so that such experience does not happen again
- Looking at the experience from the customer’s view instead of simply justifying with inside-out view
- The person at the counter seemed to be occupied totally justifying the delay and trying to get some sympathy. He totally missed his firm’s goal of staring service at 9 AM. I never tried to go there again for my breakfast.
- Effective communication, especially when ‘things are slightly out of control’
- They were definitely out of the track that day. Late opening; printer did not work; some issues with machines, etc. One thing that minimizes adverse impact in such situations is effective communication. Communication is not just a script but comes from the heart.
- Efforts to retain customers with some impromptu initiative
Though I have talked about one incident here, these apply to many other services delivery organizations. At times, things go wrong. What’s important is how effectively we handle those situations through simple things like timely and open communication, setting the right expectations, acknowledging the issues, etc. To address these, one should look at processes, behaviors that form the culture, and people’s capability. Along with these, focus on empowering employees, and their engagement levels help deliver great customer experience.