Slow Down For Customers, Even In The Madness Of Spring

Carol Miller resized for onlineAbout a month ago, I decided to stop and get a giant coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts before heading back to the office. I placed my order, feeling a bit sleepy, and circled around to the window. I handed over my debit card, and when the gal handed it back, she also gave me a tee shirt, a foam cup warmer, and a gift card. They were doing random acts of kindness, she said.

Since then, I’ve noticed that the staff, no matter how young, make an effort to make eye contact and smile, even at the drive-thru window. One gal urged me to have a fantastic rest of my day.

It makes you wonder what kind of training program they use. And whoever is doing the hiring is doing an exceptional job. Not one of those kids come across as insincere.

When you think about it, fast food joints have a lot going for them. They have to train staff to keep long drive-thru lanes rolling steadily, and most are accomplishing that goal. When you order a burger at one franchise, you can trust it will taste exactly like you expect it to taste. What you don’t expect, however, is for an efficient staff to be anything other than vaguely pleasant.

That’s why this particular Dunkin’ Donuts franchise surprises me — I don’t need to wait long (so staff is getting orders up quickly and correctly), and they still are able to make me feel like my buying coffee from them matters. At a freakin’ drive-thru.

If a fast food franchise can bring a human touch to customer service, then local business owners really need to raise the bar.

Are You Delivering The Customer Service You Think You Are?

What makes Dunkin’ Donuts’ customer service stand out — or any business’ — is it’s exceptional. It isn’t what customers expect from them. When you think about it, driving up to a window and having your coffee handed to you as soon as you stop is pretty amazing. But it’s also expected, since most fast food restaurants are doing the same thing. They are living up to their training, and that is definitely a form of customer service. What stands out is how they meet your eyes as they are handing you food and your change, then smile and wish you a good day.

I’m pretty sure that every time you go on vacation, you drop in on a garden center. You want to see how things are done there, and perhaps you’ve read about the store and you’d like to see how you stack up. How many times did the staff give you a warm welcome? How many times did you walk around for several minutes before you saw another person?

I’m guessing you’ve only rarely gotten exceptional service, because I know it’s a rarity for me to experience it at a garden shop.

You’ve been at retail for almost a lifetime. Some of your employees have, too. But all those seasonal employees coming on board are probably in shock at the pace of work they’ll have to do. It’s difficult to pull back long enough to remember what all this business is for.

As you’re getting ready for spring, amidst all the training and business, set time apart to discuss what caring for customers means. There is so much work to do with plants arriving at such a quick pace. Customers tear apart displays almost as soon as they’ve been created. When faced with a huge pile of work, it’s human nature to put your head down and just get it done. So it will take you and your training to help them step back, take a calming breath, and smile.

The tough part is that all those tasks still need to be done. If I had to wait for any length of time, that free tee shirt and gift card wouldn’t have had much impact. If the staff had failed to live up to normal expectations, the extra friendliness wouldn’t have stood out as much. I certainly wouldn’t be sharing my story with you.

The tyrant of having too much to do in too little time can transform your store from a charming local business with great quality to a place that has good stuff, but is a hassle to shop. If customers are getting great service even at their local fast food drive-thru, then you really need to find a way to surprise customers with great service.

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