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Customer service is a lost art

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POSTED: February 6, 2014 4:00 p.m.
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It is getting harder and harder to find a place that will serve good food well.

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The fast-food craze that began more than half a century ago is partly to blame for the apparent loss in customer service.
I rarely use drive-thru windows, if only because I prefer to find out I didn’t get what I ordered before I’m a mile down the road. Maybe it’s the new math or over-dependence on electronic devices used for calculating, but it’s a challenge for some fast-food workers to count hamburgers.
If you really want it your way, you better cook your own burger rather than ask them not to put ketchup on it. Don’t say “mustard only,” or you’ll get two sesame-seed buns with mustard but no burger.
I love pizza and I like the concept of delivery service, but I dread calling in an order.
“Hello, and thank you for calling Billy Bob’s Pizza,” the guy will say. “Please hold.”
After forever, he returns to the phone and asks me if I’d like to try their special or something else I don’t want. I’ll attempt to place my order, and he’ll tell me I can’t get that type of crust unless I buy a super-extra-large with geeky toppings I don’t want.
There’s an unusual delivery-service restaurant in Myrtle Beach I’ve often considered calling. Sometimes, it’s hard to get into any of the steak restaurants there without making a reservation in advance, which I always forget to do. To fill what appears to be a void, a store called “Steak-Out” is offering steaks to order that are supposedly delivered to my motel room, along with a baked tater and salad.
Things that sound too good to be true usually aren’t. These folks promise a steak cooked to order and delivered to me while still hot. They say they provide “products and services” that “exceed” my demand, but they don’t know me or how demanding I can be when it comes to steak.
Even if they can provide a medium-rare, choice rib eye served hot with an even hotter tater and fresh, crisp Caesar salad, it’s got to be good, quality steak. I don’t want anything as tough or as tasty as my old Army boots.
It seems like we have sacrificed customer service for speed and convenience. The guy who invented the automated phone-messaging system should be buried up to his neck in a fire-ant bed.
“Thank you for calling XYZ Car Insurance,” you’ll hear when you make a call. “If you’d like to report an accident or file a claim, please dial 1. If you’d like to pay a bill or change your address, please dial 2. If you’d like to talk to a real human being, please stay on the line until Jimmy Hoffa is found and Bigfoot is captured. Your call is important to us.”
What defines good customer service these days? Why should I feel obligated to tip a waiter or waitress who disappears after bringing our food to the table? My sweet-tea glass requires frequent refilling. If I have to finish my meal on the same small glass of tea I was given when I was seated, leaving a nice tip isn’t on my mind.
And who decided how much tips are supposed to be nowadays? The creator of the universe only expects 10 percent, so why do restaurants expect an 18 percent gratuity? Some add it to the bill, regardless of the service I get.
I will pay it — if it’s earned. But I think the tip should be proportional to the service rendered. The waitress at a buffet restaurant needn’t expect an 18 percent tip for letting me serve myself, but a waitress who has to come back and forth to my table several times can expect a good tip.
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly support tipping hard-working waiters and waitresses who are paid slave wages. My mama was a waitress for 40 years, so I know the little bit they get is divvied up with the IRS, busboy, dishwasher and door-greeter. Leaving a dollar on the table is OK as a tip for a cup of coffee, but if I get a full meal and the service was good, I don’t have a problem leaving a tip that’s commensurate with the service.
Oh, and I don’t take it out on the waitress if the food was bad but her service was good — except that I won’t go back to that restaurant. I don’t have a problem strongly suggesting all diners remember to leave a tip where a tip is earned. And be honest about it. Good customer service is predicated on being a good customer, or at least it used to be that way.

Email Murray at rmurray@coastalcourier.com.

 

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