Most of you know that I am an author, motivational speaker, race relations advocate, and radio host. What most of you don’t know is that I spent several years as a telemarketer, grocery store cashier, home health aide, tutor, pastry caterer, and cashier manager. In all of those professions/jobs, I strived to give the best customer service possible because I lived by the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.” My experiences, both good and bad, made me realize how important customer service is to businesses and corporations. A company could lose a valued and long-time customer because of one bad experience or establish a life-long family of customers for providing excellent service to just one family member. In reflection, I know that I never deviated from providing excellent customer service no matter what race, gender, religion, etc. whether it was in person or by phone. Why is she blogging about customer service, you may ask. Let’s break it down…
Last Saturday, my husband, daughter, and I went to a CrackerBarrel restaurant in Grapevine after one of my Breaking the Line book signings. We are frequent customers of the restaurant chain and always receive good service. It was early afternoon, and we decided to sit down and have a quick bite before heading to another appearance. We entered in behind a friendly white couple who greeted us and were immediately greeted by the store manager. They asked her a question to which she responded with a laugh. We passed right by her and all she did was nod to my husband. Now, usually, I would turn back around and greet her myself, but food called my name. The hostess greeted us warmly and showed us to a table in the uncrowded restaurant area. This was the service that I expected and was accustomed to receiving. Since I like to observe other people before I sit down, (bad habit from watching too many crime shows) I noticed a few people at the ethnically diverse table behind us didn’t look very happy. Again, I figured that it had nothing to do with me, and the food whispered in my ear. I turned around and picked up the menu. We discussed what would be good to eat for about five minutes. A waiter and waitress had passed by with no greeting. I noticed an older white waitress wiping tables and glancing our way, but still no greeting. Annoyance started to creep into my skin as I looked around and saw empty tables in our section.
Finally, the same waitress approached our table with barely a greeting. She took my drink order and proceeded to rudely ask me what I wanted to eat. Taken aback by her attitude, I ordered and filed away her attitude in my mind to address with her manager later. My daughter was still looking at the menu when she asked her for her order. Seeing that my daughter was undecided, the waitress rudely turned away with a huff to take my husband’s order in a more pleasant voice and demeanor. By this time, I had silenced the voice of food and was ready to leave; however, my husband expressed his desire to stay with a nudge under the table because he saw my rising annoyance. The waitress took my daughter’s order, snatched the menus, and walked away with an attitude. Suffice to say, the rest of the meal was unsatisfactory with cold coffee and mac’n cheese, length of time between refills, no dessert offered when the ticket was dropped to the table, and dirty dishes remaining on the table throughout the meal cluttering the table. What amazed me the most was that the waitress had an entirely different attitude with the group of white women that sat at the table across from us. For those of you who know me, you know that my husband and I are an interracial couple which the waitress didn’t know until I called him “honey” in front of her. From that point, his level of service plummeted.
As we left, I saw that even my husband’s patience had worn thin, and he stood ready to speak to the manager. The manager heard our concerns; however, he still tried to defend some of the waitress’s actions which appalled me. I explained to him that we were frequent customers of the chain and that this was the first time that we had received such bad service. He apologized and offered my husband a voucher for a couple of free meals and wanted take care of the ticket. I refused his generosity with the understanding that our complaint was for him to fix the problem whether it was racially motivated or just a bad day for the waitress. The manager explained that if he let frequent customers leave dissatisfied with the service in the restaurant, it would be bad business. If people heard that we received bad service and we are faithful customers, then they would not even consider to visit. He wanted to give us something to renew our faith in the restaurant. With that explanation, I allowed the compensation and thanked him. Hopefully, he will be able to fix the situation because even if it wasn’t racially motivated, it felt and looked like it.
As I finished the week, I reflected on my experiences with customer service both good and bad. I thought that the start of my weekend was going downhill after a mix up at the bank Friday morning that would have left me bereft of funds to take care of my daughter’s drill team fees and purchase my husband’s Valentine’s Day gift today instead of tomorrow (I know, I know, it’s a bad habit that I’m a last minute shopper). A call to the phone customer service left me ready to spit bullets, but as a customer service specialist, I relaxed and took it the man in charge of the branch that I had visited. It just so happens that the negativity was completely eradicated by a very positive and productive conversation with Branch Manager, Chris Binion at the Casa Linda Wells Fargo in Dallas.
The whole experience was not only enlightening but lighthearted. The branch that I usually visit is in Garland, but I have begun to visit Mr. Binion’s location more and more due to the convenience of the location and the level of service that I receive from the staff. When I contacted the Casa Linda branch, a nice young man answered the phone and asked me if he could assist me. He wasn’t pushy and annoyed when I asked to speak to the branch manager. He proceeded to ask me nicely to hold while he located Mr. Binion. I wasn’t on hold ten seconds before Mr. Binion’s pleasant Southern accent came back introducing himself and asking me how he could help me. He listened without interrupting and gave me very good information to use for the future. He also assisted me with fixing my account himself. I was so shocked and amazed because I had never had a branch manager offer to fix anything when I banked at another bank – which shall remain nameless. Mr. Binion took the time from his busy Friday to help a customer by phone when he could have sent me back to customer service or denied me assistance at all. Appreciation for this superior level of service does not say enough for Mr. Binion’s assistance. I can honestly say that I have offered others excellent service as a customer service manager in my past employment, but today Mr. Binion went above even that. That’s probably why I like going there more than my own branch with the excuse that it’s more convenient (shh, don’t tell my usual branch because they’re good too)
When I expressed my appreciation and joy on his job well done, Mr. Binion schooled me that he sought employment with Wells Fargo because of their excellent company values and business ethics. “Product is our service, value added is financial products and services, but our competitive advantage is our people.” In so many words, Mr. Binion had just reaffirmed the level of customer service that any business is supposed to provide. (well, not the financial products and services part; it is a bank) It is the Wells Fargo mission statement. Businesses should take heed that excellent customer service is a huge part of repeat business. If you want my business/money, it’s a number one priority.
All in all, Mr. Binion didn’t know me from Eve. He just heard my voice on the phone. He didn’t care what race, religion, gender(well, that’s kind of a given), but because I was a customer, he provided me with superior customer service…and that’s how it should always be done. Excellent job, Mr. Binion; you saved my weekend and gave me an excellent example of customer service to strive for with my own customers.