This weekend I was traveling back from Wisconsin after visiting my sister’s family. My niece just turned four-years-old. It’s hard to believe! It seems like yesterday she was born! I took my three-year-old with me to the birthday party. The two cousins, like always, had a great time together. On or six and a half-hour drive back home I heard multiple times how my daughter wanted to see her cousin. By about the zillionth time of her asking to see her cousin, I was glad when I looked in my review mirror and found her sleeping!
She slept between Chicago and Ft Wayne while I belted out the lyrics to many of the songs on my Spotify playlist. As she started to wake up I knew it would be time for a bathroom break and a snack as she hadn’t had lunch yet. I decided to stop by a reputable and rather large gas station as we would have a few more options.
First, let me say: Guys, men of all ages, boys, etc …. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS, lift the toilet set up when you do your business. Taking my three-year-old into the bathroom is tough enough, but when I have to clean up your mess …. well you get the picture.
Walking into the gas station I hear screaming and yelling. I witnessed the cashier in a verbal altercation with a customer. When the customer started throwing things, I knew it was time to quickly exit with my daughter and move on down the road.
The second stop was at a chain restaurant. I figured a side of fries and ice cream (after all what kid doesn’t want ice cream) and a quick bathroom break would be ok there. I walk in and see the sign we all recognize “Please Wait to Be Seated”. So I waited. I waited just under two minutes (I time these things … I’ll explain later) all while three servers stared and gawked at me and my daughter before they decided to come over to take us to our seats (never once saying hello). As we get seated the server said: “someone will be right with you”. I proceeded to help put the cardboard car together, play tic-tack-toe, color, place stickers on the car, wrote out the ABCs and a few other things with my daughter. I routinely glanced at the clock on my phone. To my amazement, ten minutes had gone by. Not one time did anyone come to check on us, bring us waters, take our drink orders, say anything to us. Yet, every time I looked up the same three servers were at the back talking. When my daughter said again: “I’m hungry!” I apologized and we got up and walked out.
I contemplated calling the restaurant to talk with the manager, but I knew I wouldn’t have anything nice to say. So I drove across the street to another chain restaurant. This time, walking in we went straight to the bathroom as I knew at this point that was a priority. Upon walking in I was completely disgusted by what I saw. I walked out and said something to the worker at the counter. I explained how dirty the bathroom was and that I needed something to clean the toilet for my daughter to sit on. I can only imagine the look on my face when I was handed the cleaning supplies. I took the supplies and cleaned the toilet area as best as I could so my daughter could use the facilities. As we walked out of the bathroom, the manager bumped into me and was yelling out to the staff: “start the clock now I’m on my 15-minute break” and then sat down in one of the booths.
We left. The drive back from Ft Wayne to Lima is just under an hour. I spent nearly an hour thinking about all of the past hour’s events and if I misunderstood something or if my expectations were too high on customer service. I work in customer service every day. I feel my team and I are pretty awesome at customer service and treating customers how we want to be treated and treating them how we expect, yet I would think even going beyond at times the expectation. In the past, I have worked in restaurants and I know these behaviors I experienced this evening weren’t the norm. Nor, would the managers I worked for in the past be ok with this.
So, I kept asking myself – “are your expectations too high?”
I went into the office on Monday morning and had conversations with each of my team members about this experience. I asked the same question: “Are my expectations too high?”
Everyone I talked to about this has answered with a bold “NO”. But, that didn’t make me feel any better. I have then started to wonder where society went wrong and why? I ‘start the clock’ when I walk into a restaurant because when I worked in restaurants I knew it was crucial to engage with the customer in a timely manner. I knew they needed to be sat quickly. I knew they wanted their beverages ASAP. I knew my tips depended on my customers experience and how we made them feel. I have walked out of restaurants because I wasn’t greeted within 30 seconds or one minute. My thought process is if they don’t care about me as I walk in, are they going to care about me while I’m at my table or while they are cooking my food.
I know my team and I can always improve on customer service. Most businesses I know will say they have excellent customer service. I fully believe, though, that we as a team can always improve. Even by having this conversation with my team, family members and friends this week I have had some point out some of our flaws. I appreciated that! We can grow from it now. There is always room for improvement.
But, I’m still left with the question: “Are my expectations too high?” Should I have asked to speak to the manager at stop number two? Should I have waited as long as I did? Should I have waited longer? At stop three should I have been the one to clean the bathroom? Should I have had to even ask? Am I asking too much to be greeted in a timely manner when walking into a business? What is timely?