It was a bright sunny day here last Saturday so I decided to ride my bike to the San Diego high school "world series" being held at San Diego State’s baseball stadium (apologies in advance for writing about my cycling exploits...yet again).
My good friend Jim C. has a son named Ian, who is a high school junior at a local high school. Ian is a 17-years old left handed pitcher who can throw a baseball 95 miles per hour. He has a full college scholarship waiting for him at the University of San Diego; unless of course he is drafted next June by a major league team and offered an obscene amount of money to delay his college education.
Ian was scheduled to be his school’s starting pitcher so I wanted to come and root him on.
Ian’s a great kid with a good head on his shoulders... not one of those pampered athletes... who walk around thinking that the world owes them something because God has given them talent. He is the type of kid who will have a future ahead of him whether it’s in baseball or another career path.
I arrived at the campus a bit early so I decided to stop at McDonald’s to grab an Egg McMuffin and a cup of coffee. The normally bustling school of 45,000 students was eerily quiet as the semester had ended some three weeks prior.
As I rode into the parking lot, I thought that perhaps that the restaurant was closed as there were no cars in the lot.
I pulled at the door and it opened. My bike and I walked into the restaurant and I almost made it to the counter when an agitated gentleman behind the counter yelled at me, "you can’t bring that bike in here!!".
I paused a moment to look around. The restaurant was empty (except me and the man behind the counter).
I replied to the man that all I wanted was an Egg McMuffin and a cup of coffee to go.
Ignoring my plea for food and drink, he yelled at me again, "I said that you can’t bring that bike in here...that’s the rule...look, I don’t make the rules...I just enforce them...you need to leave your bike outside!!"
I peered at the man behind the counter and noticed that he was wearing a light blue shirt and a tie...generally the uniform for a manager or owner. I politely asked him to make an exception to serve me and I’ll leave at once.
He gruffly replied, "No...it’s a rule...if I break the rule for you I’ll have to do it for everyone".
In an exaggerated motion I scanned the room looking for the "everyone" he was talking about...smiled at the absurdity of his statement and left the restaurant.
I rode over to the baseball stadium, stood in line, purchased a ticket and proceeded to go in. As I was giving my ticket to the person at the gate, I was stopped by a security officer who told me that I wasn’t allowed to take my bike into the stadium as it would block an aisle which could become a fire hazard.
I assured him that I would make sure that I would sit to one side and not block any aisles.
He explained to me that it was a part of the fire code and that it was a rule that couldn’t be broken.
I was about to leave to try and get a refund on my ticket when another security officer came up and ask me to follow her. As we were walking, she told me that there was a picnic area near the bullpen in left field and if I wanted, I could sit there to watch the game. This way my bike would be out of the way from any foot traffic.
I thought that this was a splendid idea. There were tables, rest rooms and a concession stand nearby. I had a great view of the game just beyond first base.
Within an hour, I had been denied access to two venues due to my bicycle.
At one place I was summarily dismissed for no apparent reason (or at least I wasn’t ever given a valid reason other than to have the employee tell me that it was a rule).
At the second place I was given a very valid reason as to why I couldn’t be admitted, and then offered a compromise that allowed them to still uphold the important fire code rule while allowing me to watch the game.
I often see this same type of mentality at different places I go.
Recently, I encountered a worker at the meat counter at my local grocery store who told me that they close at 9pm. When I look at the time on my phone I pointed out to the worker that it’s only 8:55...he proceeds to tell me that my phone is wrong and that his clock says 9pm.
It infuriates me when a person, supposedly in a customer service position, hides behind an arcane rule just to avoid helping a customer (it is doubly enraging when you point out their error - such as it not even being 9pm yet - and they still deny your appeal).
I’m sure that we can think of examples where someone has made the extra effort to make sure we had a positive experience when doing business with their company.
In contrast, I suspect that we could also vividly recall those times when a person had the power to make an exception but just didn’t care enough to make it happen.
It often makes me wonder if we might be doing the same thing at OptiFuse. Do we adhere to some meaningless rule that denies a great service experience for one of our customers?
Of course we need a certain set of basic standards to remain in business but is there room for exceptions when warranted?
I’ve attempted to give everyone in our company a great deal of latitude to make accommodations for special situations...but I’m constantly asking if we are doing enough to create a positive experience for our customers?
It is the responsibility of every person in an organization to do everything in their power to provide memorable customer service. Regardless of what position we hold at our respective companies, we are all in customer service.
No one in the organization is exempt...no one is too insignificant...we all need to do our best to constantly "wow" our customers with the best service that we can provide.
No matter what business we’re in...be it manufacturing, technology, or medicine...we all have customers and like it or not...we’re all in a service business...