Customer Service, Done Right and Done Incredibly Wrong

I’m writing this on a day that hasn’t really been in my favor, so it’s probably going to be a bit more harsh than usual.  But anyway, to have a post in the rant category with a tag of kudos would be rather odd.

Sometimes it takes a spectacular display of behavior to elevate something very good to the excellent level, and at the same time, showing the bad as very bad.  A couple of weeks ago at Fuddruckers, the GF and I ordered our food and sat down to wait for it.  When the server arrived with the food, she asked, “Did you get your shake, yet?”, which we hadn’t.  The server said, “Hold on just a minute,” and immediately went over and made the shake herself and brought it right over.  While she was doing that, I commented “I’m impressed she has taken personal responsibility for the problem and is fixing it.”  When she brought the shake, the GF gave expressed the same and thanked her for her level of service.

Fast-forward to a meal this weekend at Cracker Barrel.  I order my usual plain cheeseburger, which arrives not plain.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  Cracker Barrel cooks don’t seem to understand what plain means.  As is typical at restaurants, a “runner” brought the food and when it was commented my burger wasn’t plain, she was confused. She offered a fresh bun and I accepted.  Just as she was walking away, our waitress came over and asked if everything was ok.  She saw the burger and commented defensively, “I put it in as plain” to which I sarcastically replied that it’s nothing new.  The GF asks the waitress if we can get a new bun, and incredibly, the first word out of the waitress’ mouth was “no.” 


When, ever, do you flat-out say “no” to a customer?  She immediately started back-tracking when she saw the looks on our faces and I think (or I hope, for her sake) she had intended to say that instead of just bringing a bun, she would take the plate back and fix it in the kitchen.  But, as it turned out, we commented that the runner was going to bring a new bun, and the waitress dismissed herself.

Time passed, and no bun appeared.  I assumed that would happen – that the runner and waitress would each think the other was taking care of it.  As I finished my fries, the waitress came back around and saw I still didn’t have a plain bun.  Again, she didn’t really apologize, she just refused to accept blame for someone else not doing something correct.  At that point she went back and got a new bun in under 20 seconds.

The rest of the meal was uneventful, but we were still shaking our heads at the level of customer service provided.  As I’m paying for the meal at the checkout counter, my cashier is talking to another cashier, discussing that they are both done for the day.  She asks me how my food was.  I responded in a tone that should have roused suspicion, “It was… good.”  There was a short pause while she processed the payment and she asks, “and how was the service today?” and before I could answer, she turned away and picked up on her conversation with the other cashier.  My eyes grew wide.  When she turned back, she didn’t seem to realize that the question had gone unanswered and finished the transaction.  As we walked out, I had plenty of expletives in my vocabulary.

Notice how little description it took for the positive experience and how much more was devoted to the shitty experience.  I’m not sure anyone thinks that good customer service is recognized, but everyone knows that bad service is immortalized.  It is pretty clear that the Fuddruckers we were at empowers their workers to do what it takes to make the customer happy.  It’s also clear that this particular Cracker Barrel does not.  It’s entirely possible that the individual employees contributed to the success or failure, but in the case of Cracker Barrel, it was four employees’ failures – the waitress, the runner, the cook, and the cashier.  That speaks volumes about that location, which we will never return to again.

So, in conclusion, kudos to Fuddruckers for giving their workers the power to fix problems themselves, and no comment to Cracker Barrel for not taking responsibility for mistakes and being too wrapped up in their own selves to find out that they screwed up.

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