Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And the Winner Is...

My friend, Vince, always says that customer service is a dead art. After spending a lot of time in customer service, I tend to agree. Phone specialists don’t care about your problem, and that’s assuming that they even understand what your problem is. After fighting with the USPS phone system for 15 minutes while trying to track a package, he hit 0 to get an operator and was promptly informed by the automated system that “there is no need for you to speak with a representative. The information you have been provided is correct.” Go into any retail outlet, and the odds are good that you won’t be spoken to or even acknowledged. Even the Walmart greeters are getting a little slack in this area.

My biggest irritation comes with the apparent disinterest in customer service on the part of waitstaff. I have been rushed out of restaurants by waitstaff ending their shift (this usually occurs around 4-5pm, when day shift leaves and night shift turns up). I’ve had plates stack up through the entire meal because the server didn’t feel like removing appetizer plates when bringing dessert. Or having to beg for a drink refill. I’ve been a server, so I know that it can be an extremely difficult job, especially during a rush. I also, however, tend to go to restaurants during the off-hours when the server may only have one or two tables. When I was surviving on tips, I made every effort to keep my tables happy. Chatting with my coworkers didn’t pay the rent.

When I see some spectacular customer service, I feel it’s important to recognize it. That’s why today I am presenting the inaugural Lemon Goodness Customer Service award. And the winner is…Paula from the Kannapolis IHOP. IHOP. Really?

LA and I weren’t really interested in anything specific, and we were going to be in the vicinity of the IHOP, so we decided to go there. Paula recommended the strawberry lemonade by saying that she takes a cup home with her every night. LA went with the recommendation, but I chose watermelon lemonade. After looking at their specials menu, we saw that the “Minionade” was strawberry lemonade with sprinkles on top. I asked Paula if LA could have sprinkles on his. She brought the sprinkles out and dusted his drink with him. When he needed a refill, she asked if he wanted sprinkles on it, as well as offering sprinkles on our to-go beverages.

As always, LA and I were laughing hysterically about jokes that only we find funny. Paula said that we seemed fun and wanted to work with us. We told her that we’re unemployed but not to feel too bad about it because we hadn’t liked our jobs anyway. She told us to apply for jobs at the IHOP because she’d love to work with us. LA and I agreed that we’d love to work with her.

When it was time to order, I told her that LA wanted the “Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘n’ Fruity”. Paula said many of her customers order it as “the Rooty Tooty, hold the Fruity”. Considering my dining companion, this was especially hysterical. In all honesty, LA didn’t want this, I just wanted to say it. We both ordered the special Minion pancakes: lemon pancakes with berry compote and whipped cream. If you stop by IHOP in the near future (while they’re available), we both highly recommend the Minion pancakes.

Paula told us that she’s been at that IHOP for 11 years. She isn’t worried about job security, because people will always want to eat. Even if they don’t have jobs. Like us. It was obvious to us that Paula must love her job. She’s been there for 11 years, which means she isn’t an aspiring actress or just passing the time until a better job comes up. While she joked around with us and was a pleasure to talk to, she also made sure that the service itself was good.

These days, it’s easier to find poor customer service than great customer service. We found one of the greatest. I also want to say that we left Paula a hefty tip. She deserved every penny of it. If you want to be treated like you’re actually appreciated as a customer, go see Paula at the Kannapolis IHOP. We agreed that we’ll be returning. We may even call and get Paula’s schedule first!

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