There’s no such thing as too much training

I know I touched upon this in an earlier blog, but it bears repeating. My biggest pet peeve—bar none—is poor customer service. Whether it is on an airplane, dealing with a communications or utility CSR over the phone, in retail store, and of course, in a café or restaurant; I have no patience for mediocre customer service. I will walk out of establishments if the employee has been rude, lazy, apathetic or is uninformed. Maybe that’s harsh, but there are too many other choices in today’s marketplace to have to subject oneself to substandard service.

In the last four days, I have walked out of two different coffee outlets for the aforementioned reasons. Both coffee shops are international chains, and while one was a shop within a retailer and the other was likely franchised, there’s no excuse for the subpar customer service I received. At one shop, after ordering I tried to pay with my app and was informed that location did not accept apps. No problem. I then asked if I could use my card. I specifically said “my card” assuming they accepted the store loyalty card, which is often the case when the App is not accepted. When I went to pay the other barista said they did not accept the loyalty card. When I told him that the other barista said they did, she said she thought I meant a credit card. I left without my coffee. Maybe I should have specified “loyalty card” as opposed to “credit card.” Or should the barista have stated that the coffee shop did not accept the App or loyalty cards after I initially tried to use the App?

A couple of days later, I popped into another coffee shop to sample a new coffee beverage the chain had just rolled out (I like to try to keep abreast of the latest coffee and tea beverage trends). It was late in the evening but not yet near closing time. When I asked to try the new beverage, I was informed they had run out for the day. I was confused because the beverage is essentially coffee with hot milk—something that seems to be a “made to order” beverage: if they still had coffee, which they did; and they still had milk, which they did; the drink could be made. I stumped the employee (not a barista) when I asked if the drink was individually prepared or done in batches. He could not offer an answer. When I asked again, he responded by saying he would “check in the back.” I waited a couple of minutes but he never returned. I once again left without my coffee. I may try again, but it will be a long time before I attempt to do so.

Was I impatient? Maybe so. And while I did receive poor customer service at both, were these apathetic employees or were they simply improperly trained? It’s hard to say, but I strongly believe that there’s no such thing as having too much training. Whether it’s a proper coffeehouse with skilled baristas or cashiers simply taking beverage orders, those employees working the counter are the “front line” for coffeehouses, coffee shops, tea shops and QSRs. These employees can make great impressions or bad ones, create incremental revenue to sales tickets, or cost a sale if they are uninformed, rude, lazy or do not try to assist.

It’s also unfair to place “under-trained” employees in that position—rather than win/win situation, it’s a lose/lose one. Customers who feel they have received poor service will leave without ordering or will leave with their order and may never return. Furthermore, employees may feel mistreated by customers and quit. The establishment then must go through the job hiring and training process again, which is time consuming. High employee turnover can affect store traffic and ultimately sales. This scenario can be avoided by properly training employees (and continually offering reminders to be courteous and helpful, and providing updates to new products or changes to the product line so they are always informed)—not just for the “crucial fourth-quarter selling season” when there’s more foot traffic, all year round.

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