Customer Service

Many people who work in customer service have had the thought, at one time or another, that they could write a book about their experiences. I certainly felt that way when I worked at McDonald’s a million years ago, and I still feel that way now that I’ve been working for the past 10 years in another food service restaurant. After two long and crazy work days, I don’t have the mental clarity or energy to write a book, at least not today, but I’ve got some things to say, nonetheless. My intent isn’t to rant and rave, although I will admit that I might slip into that mode, but I’ll try to stick to the facts.

  • Fast food workers are often thought to fall into one of the following categories: young & inexperienced, old enough to be retired, or people who are either too stupid or lazy to get an education and a real job. Is there truth in there? Yes, slivers of truth, but it isn’t quite so simple. The inexperienced need to start somewhere. Those who have reached a point of having an excess of time but enough energy to keep working should be free to do so. A formal education is definitely important, but that education can take many shapes and forms, and sometimes a formal education really doesn’t mean a thing. If you have a university education but are a rude and miserable customer, does that make you a better person than the uneducated person serving you your coffee and donut? I think not.
  • Fast food jobs, along with most other service-related ones, are often viewed as menial and at the bottom of the pecking order. I get that. Really, I do! We aren’t saving lives. We aren’t educating children. We aren’t protecting the city or governing the country. All we do is make your coffee, your breakfast, your lunch, your afternoon snack, your dinner. When you are too lazy to make school lunches for your kids (every day for at least a week), we make them for you and place them into separate bags for you. When you have company for the weekend and don’t want to actually make breakfast for them, we take your large order for coffees, teas, bagels and breakfast sandwiches through the drive-thru, and we do it with a smile and good manners, even though the customers behind you are snarky at us because they’ve had to wait a tad too long for their single cup of coffee. It’s okay, because we are only there to serve you. With a smile.
  • We are not a high-class dining establishment, I know, but is it really too much to ask that you show some class when using our establishment? I don’t mind much if your child cries or has too much energy to sit still. I’m a parent. I’ve been there and dealt with that, too. However, even when my kids were little, I never left a disaster in our wake. If my kids left more of their muffin crumbled across the table than they actually ate, then I wiped up the crumbs and at least put them on a plate. In a fast food, self-serve sort of place, we’d always put our garbage into the proper receptacle. I don’t think it is a personal indignity to clean up after myself, even when there are people employed for the sole purpose of “serving” me.
  • It boggles my mind that people can carry their tray of dirty dishes and garbage all the way to the garbage can, and yet leave their garbage on top. You walked it all the way there! You can’t be bothered to take the extra second to tip the garbage into the slot?! Really? Oh, and please stop putting your napkins into half-full cups of coffee! Nobody wants to fish out that soggy napkin, so that the napkin can go in the garbage without all the liquid. Do you do that at home?
  • A drive-thru is an incredible convenience, isn’t it. Without leaving your vehicle, you can be served…and with the expectation of being served quickly. Indeed, our corporations and bosses place high expectations on us to serve our drive-thru guests with the greatest speed possible. Unfortunately, their expectation of possible isn’t always realistic. We do our best, but that isn’t always good enough, not for the corporation and not for some of our guests. We are only human after all.
  • I’ve heard the angry rantings of many a customer who felt that he/she was not being served quickly enough. I’m sorry to burst your bubble of self-importance, but your lack of time-management skills is not our fault or problem. When you tell me that you’re going to be late for work, because you had to wait a couple of minutes for your order, then what you are really telling me is that you aren’t responsible with your time. When I see you every day, then I also know that you are most likely also lazy since you can’t be bothered to make your own coffee and breakfast at home before you leave for work. When you throw a hissy fit about being late for the gym…well, my opinion of you sinks to an all-time low. We aren’t intentionally trying to make you late. Trust me, we want to see the backside of some of you as quickly as possible! Be mindful of the fact that not every customer has a small or simple order. Remember that person ordering breakfast for a houseful of guests? Chances are their order of 10 drinks and 10 sandwiches is a car or two before yours. It’s kind of like someone with a cart full of groceries using the express check-out, except that we can’t tell them to use the regular check-out, and you are stuck behind them!
  • We are people, too. We have feelings. We want to do our job and do it well. It isn’t always easy not to take your insults and angry words personally. Even though we are there to serve you, we are not doormats for you to wipe your dirty feet on. Treat us with respect and you will also be treated with respect. Even when you treat us like dirt, most of us still manage to treat you with more respect than you deserve. Respect also includes giving us your attention when we are trying to serve you. It’s not easy to take your order, when you are busy talking or texting on your cell phone. Don’t treat us as if we are interrupting your conversation, because you came to us to be served, remember? Respect also includes actually listening, like really listening, to what we say to you. “Can we get anything else for you?” If you say, “yes” then we will assume that you would like to order something else and will wait for you to say what it is. If you say, “no” then we will tell you your total, at which point you will continue to order more stuff. You expect us to listen to what you say, so please give us your attention.
  • I’ll admit that I get annoyed when I ask a drive-thru customer if there is anything else I can get for them and they answer with “a smile”. I always greet my customers with a smile, but I do not like the awkwardly forced smile that results after such a comment. I also do not like it when a customer pulls up to my drive-thru window and never once acknowledges my existence. They don’t look at me. They don’t smile or return my greeting. They don’t say ‘thank you’. If I treated you that way, you would complain about the poor service you received.
  • The drive-thru is not the place to clean out your car or carry on a cell phone conversation. Even if it looks like there is no one behind you, your vehicle is sitting on a sensor which activates a timer. The longer you sit there, the worse it looks to our bosses and head offices. They don’t care that we finished serving you a minute ago. All that matters is that the timer says we are too slow. So please, pull forward and take care of your other business elsewhere.
  • A drive-thru can be a tricky place. The microphone can pick up all sorts of sounds, like that annoying magpie in the tree just over there, the airplane flying overhead, the lawnmower next door, the ambulance siren wailing in the distance, and the diesel truck behind you in the line-up. Each of those noises can make it incredibly difficult to hear what you are ordering. Our ability to hear is further hindered by half-open windows (especially prevalent in inclement weather), by passengers trying to order, by a soft-spoken individual, by the background noise inside the restaurant. If we indicate that we are having trouble hearing you, speak up, open your window, shut off your noisy vehicle, or do the ordering for your passenger. We want to get your order right, so make it easier for us to do that!
  • Technology can be wonderful, but it can also make life difficult. Our society has come to rely on technology quite heavily, which means a disruption to that technology can be upsetting. From time to time, there will be periods when our internet, wi-fi, debit/credit system, or various pieces of equipment go down. Sometimes those disruptions are beyond our control. The debit in our drive-thru went down for roughly 5 minutes this morning. It wasn’t our fault. There was nothing we could do about it. We realize it is an inconvenience to you, especially if you do not have cash on you, but we are as frustrated by the inconvenience as you are. It slows down our speed of service. We lose sales. We appreciate your understanding and patience. If you aren’t so understanding…maybe you have bigger issues to deal with.
  • Yes, we are “fast” food. Our food is designed to be assembled and passed on to you as quickly as possible; however, sometimes it might take a minute or two or even five! <gasp!> I know it is asking an awful lot to expect you to wait a couple of minutes for your sandwich to be made. I understand that you are late for work or school or the gym. I understand that I am merely an uneducated, peon of a worker, who shouldn’t dare to opine that my job is difficult. Unfortunately, every other customer also feels like you do, and they all want their sandwiches at the exact same time that you do. We have two cashiers inside the restaurant plus the drive-thru, and each one is constantly pushing through orders for food to be made, but only one or two people are responsible to make the food. I suppose we could have more people make the food, but our food prep area isn’t designed for more bodies. Such is the nature of our type of business. We might not like it much either, but that isn’t going to change anytime soon. And seriously, is it the end of the world if you have to wait five minutes for a sandwich? Well, I guess it could be, if you’re late for the gym.
  • In a nutshell, we are there to serve you, so why not make it a pleasant experience for all of us? Yes, it is our job to treat you with respect. Treating us with respect doesn’t hurt, and it might even help your day to go a little more smoothly.

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