Friday, October 28, 2011

Who Needs Customers?

We have this saying in America "The customer is always right" and while there are certainly times when customer service is lacking (ahem, I'm talking to you Philadelphia International Airport), in general, the American service industry aims to please because "When the customer comes first, the customer will last." 

Customers pretty much have all the power in the States. CEO's of some of our country's most largest and most successful companies attest to this as a key component to their success. 

Sam Walton, founder of the Wal-Mart and the oversized parking lot...

believed "There is only one boss. The customer."

Michael LeBoeuf, author of How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life says "Every company's greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company."

Even in the online world, customer service is an important component to success. Just ask Mr. Amazon himself, Jeff Bezos who sees customers as "invited guests to a party" of which he is the host.

Now, let's contrast that to my current country of residence, where good customer service seems to be more the exception than the norm. I think it's safe to say that customer service isn't exactly Germany's forté.

Take the following for example: we went to dinner with some friends in Mannheim a couple of weeks ago and afterwards we hit up this cafe on the main street for a little dessert.

Now, use your imagination for a bit, this place had an ice cream counter where one could order, well, ice cream of course, and it also had a sit down cafe area where one could order loads of calories cakes, hot chocolate and coffee. You could order ice cream as well, it just was slightly fancier, like sundaes and stuff, and it was four times the price. 

Our friends ordered a scoop of ice cream from the counter (before we knew the whole price difference mind you) and Luis and I opted to order cake and a hot chocolate from the waiter in the cafe. 

After getting their ice cream, Jennifer and Daniel joined us at the table where we were waiting to order. The waiter came over, and instead of kindly welcoming us and taking our order he came over rather agitated and said "You are not allowed to eat that ice cream here. You need to leave."

After wiping the look of confusion off of our faces, we simply asked why they could not sit and eat their ice cream here, especially since the alternative was to stand outside in the cold. 

He explained that if you order ice cream from the counter you have to take it to-go. You absolutely, cannot eat it in the restaurant. There's even a sign, which we, of course, did not see, that states this so called "rule."  

We then assured him that it was okay because actually we would be ordering something from the cafe as well, so no worries, problem solved. And do you know what he said? 

No. He said no. It's not allowed. They had to leave. Uh...seriously

We went on to have the "You can't eat here" "No it's okay we're gonna order something" "You still can't eat here" conversation at least three or four times after that before he finally went and asked the lady working behind the cake counter. 

She must have said it was okay because he came over, frustrated, and finally took our order.

I just can't understand why he couldn't figure out that, if we came in as a group of four, and he kicked two of the four out for eating the to-go ice cream in the cafe, why would the other two stay? 

It's not like we would have ordered something and enjoyed it while our friends sat outside. We would have left with them. And he would have missed out on our money.

What's crazy too is that, it actually would have been perfectly fine for them to not eat anything at all, and just to sit there while we ate. He would have never said anything about them leaving if they said "No thank you, we don't want anything." 

But because they ordered the ice cream from the counter, and because it was a written that was just unacceptable. Germans do not break the rules. Even if common sense makes the rule seem ridiculous. 

Rules are to Germans what the Ace of spades is to the game of Spades: they trump all. 

It just seriously blows my mind that he would have turned down our business just because they ordered their ice cream at the counter and not in the cafe. I can see how he had a right to kick us out if we had all ordered ice cream at the counter and chose to ate it in the cafe, but that obviously, was not the case. 

And really, even if we had done that, the place was empty other than one other couple, so what did it even matter? Heck, he should have been glad just to have customers!

I'm still in shock if you couldn't tell. But hey, on the bright side, the hot chocolate was so yummy. And pretty too.

And it came with a cookie. And we got a good laugh out of the whole thing. So it all worked out in the end.

Yikes, that took longer to explain than I had planned, which means the other customer (bad) service story will get abbreviated for another date. Perhaps I will share it when they actually deliver that which they promised would be here 3 weeks ago.

Bah! Come on T-Mobil. Get it together. My phone is on it's last leg...not sure how much longer it can hold out. Plus, I wanna meet Siri and have Face Time with my fam who of course, have already received their phones because they live in the grand ol' US of A, where it's all about short wait times and customer satisfaction.

I appreciate that life here is slower paced and that sometimes you have to wait a bit to get what you want/need; I really do, but this is just getting ridiculous. 

Hopefully we get our phones tomorrow or else T-Mobil will get to experience how Americans respond to bad service. If it comes to that, you can be sure you have some good entertainment coming your way. 

Hooray for the weekend! And hooray for Luis getting to play tomorrow. God certainly is good...just when you feel you're about to give up, He does something cool to remind you that He is faithful, and He always provides all that you need, at the exact moment you need it. 

May you experience His faithfulness and provision in all circumstances, this weekend, and beyond. And somehow typing that reminded me of Buzz Lightyear..."To Infinity, and Beyooond!" Or in my case, to bed. :) Gute Nacht!


H. Gillham said... Best Blogger Tips

on the flip side, in America, sometimes, there seem to be no rules...


that experience was so German.

They love their rules.

Chocolate and Cognac said... Best Blogger Tips
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