While I’m always in search of the greatest cheeseburger in the world, I do have about half-a-dozen go-to places that never let me down. One of them, named after a maroon bird, is right near our office. Not only are their burgers consistently delicious, the service is always fast and friendly. Recently, as my wife and I headed for the door after a satisfying lunch, no fewer than four of their staff smiled and thanked us for coming.
Contrast this with another favorite establishment, named after a large, um, burger. Not too long ago, I ducked into one of their stands around 11:00 in the morning to beat the lunch rush. One lone teenage girl took my order and money, did the same for the guy behind me, then hurried to the grill to start preparing our food. All the while, the line continued to grow. The poor girl shuttled back and forth like a target in a shooting gallery while people grumbled about the poor service. Some of them actually bailed.
I felt bad for the girl. I know it’s not her fault. Place the blame squarely on the geniuses in management who decided to save a few bucks by keeping the place understaffed at lunch hour. The burger was excellent as usual, but the 25-minute wait did nothing to improve my spirits.
And that’s the point. In the New Economy, as companies desperately try to reduce costs, the last thing they should be cutting is customer service. In fact, I maintain that service is more important than ever. Here’s why. My daughter and son-in-law used to eat out three to four times a week. Now, they eat out every two weeks, on payday. It’s become a big deal for them. They spend time planning where they want to go and really look forward to the experience. If that experience turns out to be disappointing in any way, the effect is magnified. I guarantee you they won’t be coming back.
I’m all for re-examining every aspect of business to make it more cost-effective. But not at the expense of customers or clients. In today’s world, service can give you a big competitive edge. It could mean the difference between survival and closing your doors forever. I hope my go-to burger joints are listening.