Featured Product
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Quality Insider Features
Master Gage and Tool Co.
Why it matters for accurate measurements
Ian Wright
MIT and ETH Zurich engineers use computer vision to help adjust material deposition rates in real time
Scott A. Hindle
Part 4 of our series on SPC in the digital era
Etienne Nichols
It’s not the job that’s the problem. It’s the tools you have to do it with.
Lee Simmons
Lessons from a deep dive into 30 years of NFL and NBA management turnover

More Features

Quality Insider News
Exploring how a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse works
High-capacity solution using TSMC’s 3DFabric technologies
EcoBell paints plastic parts with minimal material consumption
August 2023 US consumption totaled $219.2 million
New KMR-Mx Series video inspection system to be introduced at the show
Modern manufacturing execution software is integral for companies looking to achieve digital maturity
Study of intelligent noise reduction in pediatric study
Results are high print quality, increased throughput

More News

Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Customer Service Run Amok

Do we deserve to be overindulged? You bet.

Published: Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 16:00

We’ve all heard and seen commercials that claim “Customer service is No. 1 with us” or “We treat our customers like we want to be treated.” If these statements rang true, you’d think we’d hear more about contented consumers and their positive customer experiences.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) tracks various trends and benchmarks of customer service for the United States and the United Kingdom. The latest report indicates a modest uptick in consumer satisfaction; however, there’s still room for improvement. In the airline survey, Jet Blue sits at the top of the customer service ladder while Spirit occupies the lowest rung. Travelers are most pleased with Marriott and not so pleased with Motel 6.

As a consumer, I want to be dazzled with service, and that’s why the past two weeks have left me a bit disillusioned. Let me explain.

Lunch at a local restaurant that had just been completely refurbished was an epicurean delight. There were lots of menu choices, and the surroundings were breathtaking. At the conclusion of our lunch, I asked for the customary to-go cup for my soda. You could gauge my astonishment when I was told the restaurant didn’t provide to-go drinks—that was its policy! Our server told us it was a “liability issue” because there was a concern that some patrons would leave, add some alcohol to the soda, and then have an auto accident. That is the most ridiculous, inane, insane excuse I have ever heard. I emailed the manager, and I’m awaiting a response.

Another restaurant interaction also confounded me. We went to a Mexican diner, where I ordered a shrimp-meal combo that came with warm flour tortillas. When my plate arrived I noticed that the shrimp still had the tails intact. I severed the tails and enjoyed the meal. When our server came by I asked if at my next visit the shrimp tails could be removed as they are for several other items on the menu. Evidently this particular meal is served with the tails intact, and our server further explained that requesting such a change would have to be cleared by the chef. Really? When does the request of a paying customer not take precedence over the minor inconvenience of the chef? Guess I won’t be ordering that menu item anymore.

One of my favorite drinks is an iced-vanilla latte from a nationwide fast-food restaurant. In fact, I probably drink three or four a week. Recently, I went to one of these restaurants outside of my neighborhood and ordered the drink. To my surprise the barista said the iced-coffee drinks weren’t available. I asked if that was a one-day problem and was told they never prepare iced-coffee drinks. When I went back to the neighborhood restaurant I found the drink on the menu and happily ordered one. Needless to say I called the previous establishment and talked to the manager, who said the barista was wrong. This was confirmed on my next visit as I enjoyed my customary iced-vanilla latte.

To cap off my dining adventures, we went to a sit-down restaurant where I ordered a half-sandwich, soup, and French fries. When my plate arrived I was agape at the paltry amount of fries. When confronting our server about the issue, I learned that the kitchen manager weighs the fries because you don’t get a full order with a half-sandwich! As a courtesy to me, our server brought me some extra fries. I also reminded our server that two of the restaurant’s competitors (namely, Red Robin and Max & Erma’s) offer “never-ending fries.”

And finally, I want to know why several coffeehouses don’t serve decaf brew after a certain time in the afternoon. You can request decaf, but it seems to be an imposition. I  suspect people prefer decaf coffee late in the day, unless you work in a NORAD missile bunker and need to stay alert.

Now, I know what you’re saying: Bill, why are you so cantankerous, and why do you come across as overindulged and overprivileged? Yes, I am cantankerous when it comes to being provided with exceptional customer service. And I plead guilty to being overindulged and overprivileged. Now I’m off to experience some world-class service on Jet Blue and at the Marriott hotels, where I know I will be dazzled and overindulged!


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


customer service

Go for it!

I haven't been to a restaurant that doesn't offer to go drinks or at least provides them upon request.  That could be a non-starter.  It sounds like it pays to be heard, though at your coffee provider.  The old "squeaking wheel gets the grease" adage.