Don’t count pennies to make dollars…customer service lessons from a Taco Shop!

Don’t count pennies to make dollars…customer service lessons from a Taco Shop!
By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

Let me preface this by saying I am the first one to advise that you must be financially smart.
And I will also admit that I am BIG on world-class customer service.

And when it comes to customer service, why do so many people “cheap out” and ultimately tick customers off, which ultimately leads to unhappy customers/clients/members.

I remember reading Chris Zane’s “Reinventing the Wheel” book a while ago and it was the first time I heard of the term, “lifetime value of a customer.” And Zane went on to explain in his excellent book all about spending MORE money on client’s satisfaction.

Case Study: What NOT to do! [Customer Service Do’s & Don’t’s]

So I was back in NJ with my family on Monday and we decided to get take-out at a popular Mexican restaurant named “Surf Taco.” (Surf Taco started a few years ago on the Jersey Shore and has spread quickly). There were 11 people in all for the order so it was a “big” order.

When I went in to pick up the order, I paid the $110.49 for the 11 meals.

After I paid, the girl at the cashier informed me that I could help myself to the FREE Salsa bar. She handed me about 20 little 2-oz salsa containers.

I asked her if I get just get 3 or 4 of the larger 6-oz containers so I could fill up 3 of them instead of having 20, 2-oz containers.

She pauses. Looks at me funny and says that will be $3.95 each for each container.

I thought she was joking, but she was not.

I said, “No, I don’t want you to put salsa or pico de galo in it. I just want the actual empty plastic container to fill up the salsa at the free salsa bar. It’s actually a lot smarter for me to leave with 3 containers of your FREE salsa than 20 of your little 2-oz containers.”

She rudely said, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that. I’ll have to talk to my manager.” (Mistake #1: if you have to talk to your manager to make small decisions like that all the time, you are working for the wrong organization. Always make sure YOU can immediately make a customer happy).

The young gal comes back and essentially throws 3 containers of the 6-oz containers onto the counter and doesn’t say a word. (Mistake #2: her manager obviously told her just to shut me up and give me my 3 plastic cups for the free salsa. Lesson: Don’t be sour grapes about it. Apologize. Smile. Make it like I don’t feel like I’m being a nuisance to be a paying customer.)

So I explain to the “other” gal at the cash register, “I’m sorry I came in today to bother you guys as a paying customer. I just spent$110 with you guys and you would have had a decent $10 or so tip on a TAKE-OUT order for about 3-minutes of kindness and good customer service. Instead, you will be getting none. And you will be losing a customer. And there is fat chance that I’ll be supporting your business again.” (I don’t know why but I’m more outspoken in NJ. J).

I filled up my 3-containers and could feel the negative vibes and ugly glares the girls were giving me as I was filling up my “3” salsa containers for the 11-meals.

I left the restaurant and Luke (my 14-year old son who is kinda quiet says “Dad, that was the worst customer service and body language I’ve ever seen.”) (Lesson #3. Body Language counts; even a 14-year old knows how to read it.)

Surf Taco lost a fan today. They lost a customer for good. And while the food was great, the service stunk. And I will not be back.

And here I am telling you about it. (Lesson #4. If someone likes your business, they will tell 5 people; if they don’t like your business, they will tell 30. In this case, I’m telling a lot more. Not good for Surf Taco).

I don’t get it. In today’s UBER COMPETIVE business space for ANY business, there is NO room for error for poor customer service.

Go to all costs to make every single person happy in your business. Regardless of your title in the business.

Do the right thing. Always.
If someone asks for something…give it to them if you can…and over deliver.
Smile more. Show your teeth.
If you’re an owner, empower your people to solve problems and put smiles on people’s faces.
If you work at a studio or club, ask your owner/manager is there a “budget” you have to make someone happy (ie. $100. At FQ10, I would hope that if any of our 38 teammates were dealing with an unhappy person, they would do everything possible to appease someone. If it meant, comp-ing a massage or a session, I would want them to do that. If it means giving them a shirt because they are unhappy with something, maybe that would put a smile on their face. If it means gifting them some nutritional/retail products just to show them how much we care, GO FOR IT! I’m not saying we should just be giving away things for free. I’m saying that if you sense that someone is unhappy or needs some extra attention, see what you can do to deepen your “lifetime customer.”


Does it take training to do that?
Apparently so. While most of us would seem to think customer service is “common sense,” it’s obviously not. I’m constantly reminded how poor customer service is in business.

“Surf Taco” is no different than the fitness space.
There are customers.
You want repeat customers.
You want people to like your product and go out and rave about the product and the service. We call that the EXPERIENCE.

You can come up with all the excuses you want (you have grown too fast, not enough staff, too much staff, not enough meetings, not enough feedback, no training, etc.).

The bottom line is that customer service is NOT an option if you want to create a highly-successful company that produces raving fans. It’s a MUST.

Do what you need to WOW people every day. At ALL Costs.

Thanks Surf Taco for reminding me what NOT to do in business. The product was good. Service stunk. I won’t be back.

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