The Attitude of Service

A few weeks ago, I stopped at a fast food restaurant on the way to work and ordered a large hot tea with four creams and four sugars.  Now, most people would think that was a common thing to order.  However, when I pulled up to the window the cashier started to hand me an iced tea. And I could see there wasn’t any cream

Wrinkling my brow, and in the nicest tone, I noted that my order was for a large hot tea. With four creams and four sugars.  Acting annoyed, the cashier gave me an “Are you kidding me” attitude and stepped back to look at the order again.  “You ordered a hot tea?” she questioned, to which I responded “Yes.”  

When she came back, she shoved the tea out the window, along with a tea bag, and made a point that I’d have to put that in myself.  As if that wasn’t obvious.

There were a few other responses I could have gotten. But instead, I was made to feel like it was some sort of inconvenience.  I wasn’t lovin it. 

Fast forward a few weeks, at another restaurant in the same chain, I pulled into the drive through and placed the same order.  Large hot tea, four creams and four sugars.  This time, I noted that my order appeared exactly as requested on the big screen.  Amazingly, when I pulled up to the window, the cashier started to hand me what he said was large coffee.  Really?

As I did the previous time, I smiled and said, “I ordered a large hot tea.” Another staff member passing by heard the exchange, looked at the display, and moved quickly to get me what I ordered.  She returned shortly later and handed a small cup to the cashier.  Seeing this, I squinted and said, “I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be large.  And with four creams and four sugars.”  

By that time, both of the staff members were openly acknowledging the error, even offering some self-deprecating body language. And since the natural response to someone owning an error is to be gracious, if not comforting, that’s exactly what I did.   After all, I have a soft spot for people who own their errors rather than deflecting responsibility onto others.  

Driving away, I started to reflect on the two experiences I’d had. One left me feeling dismissed, and that I was the problem, while the second experience was much lighter, if not humorous.  In both cases, the event was the same.  The response, however, made all the difference.  

The cashier in the first experience might have been having a bad day.  Or, the training and support for that chain’s staff might vary by location.  Those things can–and do–make a difference.  But there is an even simpler way to ensure consistently excellent customer service, and that is to own it.  There’s no special training. Service is all about attitude.

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