The customer should never have to wait.
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My wife and I recently went out for dinner with another couple to the local Carrabba’s Italian Grill. The food was good and the overall service was fine. However, at the end of the meal our waitress disappeared. As I waited, I grew impatient and leaned over the table and whispered to my friend, “The customer should never have to wait to pay the bill.”
“What do you mean by that?” my friend asked.
I explained the waitress had no idea what our plans were. We may have had tickets to see a movie or had some other commitment. From this perspective, it was just plain rude to keep the customer waiting. More than that though, there were people waiting to be seated and if our waitress had processed the check properly, they could turn the table and serve more people. In other words, from a business perspective, they would make more money. Evidently, our waitress couldn’t have cared less. I might understand if she presented the bill and allowed us to finish our coffee and chat, but this was not the case.
I guess I am “old school” when it comes to serving the customer. Let me give you another example; 1982 was a particularly profitable year for our company. We were flush with cash and like a lot of other companies in our situation wanted to spend it before the end of the year as opposed to letting the government tax us for it. At the time, we were in need of a new computer. PC’s were not in vogue yet, and mainframes were cost prohibitive. Instead, we were interested in a mid-range computer that could suit both our development and administrative needs. After considerable investigation, we settled on a DEC VAX (an 11/750 with VMS) from Digital Equipment Company in Massachusetts, a fine machine with a good reputation for reliability and service. Keep in mind, such computers back then were high ticket items costing thousands of dollars.
There was just one problem with the computer; we couldn’t buy it. True, we had plenty of money, but we had difficulty finding a salesman to take our order. The last week of the year is always bad in terms of people taking time off between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but a big company like DEC should have someone around, right? Wrong. We ended up speaking to a salesman who was more interested in the holiday break than in selling us a computer. When we realized he was incompetent, we asked for another salesman. The second rep said he could take the order and would begin the paperwork in terms of setting us up as a customer and performing a credit check on us, which would take several weeks to complete. This was unacceptable, so we had to make additional calls to find the right person, a sales manager.
We explained to the manager we had spoken to his underlings who didn’t seem to comprehend our situation. We said, “Look, it’s simple, you have got a computer on your docks which we want to purchase; we will send you a certified check by overnight mail, if you can process the contract and ship the product within 24 hours.”
The salesman sensed the urgency of the matter and understood the necessity for acting promptly (as he did not want to lose the sale). “Can do, Sir,” was his response. We processed the check accordingly and promptly received the computer from DEC. All of the bureaucratic problems as described by the DEC underlings never materialized and everybody was happy with the transaction, all because the DEC sales manager knew how to take some initiative and conquered all of the obstacles in the way.
The underlings were not sensitive to our problem and, frankly, couldn’t care less if we ever got the machine. Fortunately, we found someone who possessed a sense of urgency and wanted to keep the customer happy.
Another problem I have seen lately is the laissez faire attitude of shipping products to the customer. I’m of the school if the customer orders a product, I believe he/she is entitled to receive it as soon as possible. This doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. I know of a local company who sells an array of products for manufacturing companies. Recently, they had a change of management which is now run by young managers, two of them about 30 years of age. When salesmen place orders, it now takes several weeks, if not months, to ship the product. Such irresponsible processing of orders has already cost them the loss of some rather large customers, yet they are as ambivalent about it as our waitress.
To make matters worse, the company automated their inventory system over the last few years. Unfortunately, the clerks are behind in processing orders and the staff in the warehouse rarely updates it. Consequently, they no longer know how much product they have on hand, where it is located in the warehouse, and whether a back-order is required. This is obviously not rocket science, but the general attitude is, “Who cares?”
It is this mentality that bothers me most. If you order something, it should be promptly shipped, and why I believe, “The customer should never have to wait to pay the bill.”
So, what is wrong with serving the customer promptly? Nothing. It is just good business to do so.
Keep the Faith!