Monday, June 16, 2014

Customer Service

The idea that the customer comes first is part of basic American culture. I say American culture because I believe we take it to a different level than in other countries.

Many years ago I was attending CeBIT in Germany, and after the convention my wife flew out and we did a little tour of Germany. We had a lot of fun driving 100mph down the autobahn (that was the top speed the little rental car we had could go). It was great trying to use what little German I knew to communicate with people that spoke no English, I didn't do to well at it.

One of the things that sticks out in my mind was a trip to a department store. We were wandering around the store looking at things when we were asked to leave. It was the middle of the day, and to me it seemed like a strange time to be kicking everyone out of the store. But in Germany, and in Chile and in many other places they close the stores for an hour in the middle of the day for lunch. This would never work in the USA where the catering to the consumer is more important than letting people eat lunch.

A church in Eze
Speaking of eating, I was working at the Brainshare convention in Nice France. It is cool to get paid to go to the French Rivera, but I was working all day and only had evenings off, so really didn't get much chance to enjoy one of Europe's favorite vacation spots. After a long day of working the convention we would go out to get dinner. Some of my coworkers were very upset at the lack of service they would get at the restaurants. But the real problem was they didn't understand the difference in the culture. In the USA when you go out to eat the restaurant works on your schedule. You sit down, your drinks are filled, an appetizer is served, and when you finish the appetizer the main meal is served, and of course dessert is served once you finish the meal.

The Nice restaurants did not work that way. When you arrive for dinner you are worked into the restaurant's schedule. The appetizers are served to all the guests at the same time, and the main meals are not served to anyone until after the appetizers are all done. If you arrive late you will get the first part of the meal rushed to get you on schedule, and if you arrive early you have to sit around and wait until the schedule catches up to you.

Store's truck taking up the good parking.
It really is just a different mindset. In America you really need to have a customers come first attitude to be successful.

A new store just opened up two doors down from my store. The whole time they are building out their store their vehicles were using up the very limited number of close parking spaces in front of our stores. After a few days I went over and complained.  Well, they have moved a little farther away opening up a couple of closer parking spots, but still they seem to have the attitude that they are more important than the customers and continue to park in spots that should be left open for customers. Now maybe I am being a little too critical, but I can't help but wonder what kind of customer service they will provide when they seem to think the customers should have to walk further then they do. 

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