As we left the Cracker Barrel that night, I asked my wife how she would rate our customer experience as we paid for our meal. “Two thumbs down” she replied in microseconds. We were on the same page. It was a horrible experience.
While the food and overall experience in Cracker Barrels are frighteningly consistent, the interaction with the employees offers more variety than their breakfast menu. This most recent experience left us slightly stunned at how blatantly bad it was.
But, being a “lemons into lemonade” kind of guy, I have extracted some customer service lessons from this. Here they are.
7 things customer hate in a retail or restaurant environment
1. We hate hearing about your upcoming trip to Las Vegas, unless we initiated the topic. Keep your personal business to yourself, unless the customer asks about it.
2. We hate you talking over, around or through us to other employees. It’s especially irritating when you do this while taking my money. Somehow it violates my sense of balance. I am literally paying you to ignore me.
3. We hate it when you talk about how you’re only there for the money. It may be true but, we don’t want to hear it. We’d rather believe you love your job and your customers. (Sure this is a fantasy but you could at least try to indulge us.)
4. We hate it when you offer the phoniest of mechanical “thank yous”. If you can’t even try to show some appreciation for our business then maybe you should be out in the parking lot picking up cigarette butts. Leave the “people-skills” work for someone more personable and less perfunctory.
5. We hate it when an employee who has just clocked out stands around and engages the other employees in a grand conversation while customers are ignored. Okay, we get it, you’re off duty now so you’re free to do what you want. Cool for you. But that does not give you the right to be an obstacle to everyone else. If you want to chat with your buddies go in the back room.
6. We hate feeling like we’re an intrusion. We love that you’re enjoying your time at work, we really do. But the trouble is you’re enjoying yourself despite your customers. Your words and actions do not include us even a little. Your entire focus was on your pals. From our perspective we were interrupting your little coffee klatsch and the sooner we could move on the better it would be for you. Not exactly the experience we’re looking for.
7. We hate it when the manager on duty is part of the problem. Everything described in number 1-6 took place with the full knowledge and participation of the manager. He was there yukking it up with his staff. So, tell me Mr. Manager Guy, what part of MANAGER do you not understand?
And if you’re an owner or manager, the biggest lesson here is that the final minutes count as much as (or more than) the rest.
Most of our experience that evening was fine. Not great but not bad. Consistent and about what we expected. No reason for us to not come back.
But when we went to pay, we were treated to the experience described above. This is what we will remember. This is what we’ll tell others about.
If you want your customers to come back, and tell others good things about your business, make sure the entire experience is good. The last few minutes of the game really do matter.
What would you add to this list? What things do you hate when you’re a customer?