The bar is set pretty low

Ummm, YummImage by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

In marketing, we talk a lot about being remarkable.  We want to delight our customers.  We want to create moments that they can't help talking about.  In short — we want to stand above our competition in a way that we become the brand of choice.

I'm here to tell you — we don't have to be on all too high a step stool do just that.

Earlier this week I was in Mt. Kisko, New York conducting a social media workshop for an advertising agency.  After we were done, the agency owner and I decided we needed some caffeine, so we swung through the local Dunkin' Donuts.

What I witnessed in those next 15 minutes could be a half day case course on customer care and employee relations.  I'll try to sum it up.

It's around 5:00 in the afternoon, so most of the people in line (and there was a significant line) were just buying some form of coffee.  There were two guys behind the counter and a manager who flies in with supplies (milk, syrups etc) and then flies out.

It's taking them forever to fill anyone's order or advance the line.  People seem pretty frustrated with the two clerks — neither of whom seem to actually know how to make many of the coffee drinks.  Worse…as they are getting it wrong, they're sort of giggling about it — clearly uncomfortable.  But they're not asking the manager for help, which I observe and think is a bit odd.

Finally, it's my turn to order.  I order the two coffees and the guy has to ask me 3 times what I ordered.  Meanwhile, the other clerk is taking an order from an old man who is clearly agitated.  The manager walks by (carrying more milk) and the old man says to him in a very loud voice, "this is the worst Dunkin' Donuts I have ever been in!"  (Now before you keep reading…stop and ask yourself if a customer said that to you in front of a room full of customers…how would you react?)

The manager looks at the old man and in a very sarcastic voice replies, "thanks for the compliment."  The old man shakes his head and then commences to shout at the clerk because he's making the wrong coffee.  I'm thinking to myself two things:  First…blog post heaven and second, this can't get any worse. 

I was wrong.

After the old man leaves, muttering under his breath, the manager says to the two clerks — "if that old guy ever comes in here again — you tell him to go someplace else."  In the next breath, he adds, "and if you two would stop talking to each other and listen (and then he shouts for some emphasis) LISTEN to the customers — you wouldn't be getting all of these orders wrong."  He continues to berate his clerks for a couple more minutes and then storms into the back of the store. 

As you might imagine, the two clerks gave him a look that pretty much substituted for the finger and get back to trying to fill the order.  Now I get why they didn't ask him for help.

Meanwhile, I am holding up a $10 bill because we got our coffees (mine was wrong but it wasn't worth the drama of saying so) but no one has taken my money.  Both clerks nod at the other guy when I ask who I should pay.  I practically have to insist that someone take my money. Finally, the kid who filled our order starts to ring us up.  I remind him of what we ordered.  My coffee alone should have been $3.95 but somehow he ends up charging me $4.20.

The point of this incredibly long tale?  Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Without training and setting a good example — no employee can be successful
  • Secret shopping is a vital investment if you own a retail establishment
  • The manager/leader of an organization sets the tone for everything that happens
  • As customers, our standards and expectations are incredibly low (which means it should be easy to exceed them.)
  • Some people just should not have "front of the house" jobs
  • It only takes one bad experience can taint the consumer's impression about the entire brand (I see and think about Dunkin' Donuts in a totally different way now)

The whole experience was a train wreck.  Are you so sure that your management team and front line employees would fare better?  Are you really sure?

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