Category Archives: Customer Service
I used to work in an advertising company in the Greater Vancouver, Canada, area. I started out in the customer service department before moving into the training department and got a nice trip to the Philippines out of it.
But what I would like to address in this post is the fact that “teamwork” is not wanted by managers.
At this company, the customer service department was managed by someone named Kiran. He was a bright guy, charming, and ambitious. He was the one who hired me, and we got along very well initially because he recognized my work ethic and ideas. I was helpful and professional when dealing with customer service issues. I did a great job for him.
Eventually, I realized he was more interested in building cliques in the office and he treated me as someone who could solve his problems and help him look good — but I was never one of “them.” I was always an outsider and was kept around only because I worked hard and I worked smart, and I got work done and solved his problems. That’s what bosses want.
There are many stories about the cliques, which I’ll save for another time, but for now I’ll talk about the one in which he was a manager who didn’t believe in teamwork.
One day, a manager from the sales department came into the customer service department to talk to Livia, one of the customer service reps. Apparently, Livia had not shown proper etiquette while on the phone speaking to a client, and the sales department manager came in to discuss this with Livia.
At that time, there was only myself and Livia in the room when the sales manager came in. I didn’t think much about what the sales manager said, because it sounded like good advice and something valuable to learn from. I’d worked previously for St. John Ambulance in their customer service department, and we (ie. that department) used to receive all sorts of helpful suggestions from other managers in the organization.
Back to this advertising company… like I said, I didn’t think much about it other than just some friendly advice. But after the sales manager left, Livia (who was hired the same time I was) threw a hissy fit. She didn’t like to be told what to do. I tried to calm Livia down by giving her a pep talk. I said just treat it like it’s constructive criticism. As I was finishing my talk, Kiran walked in. Livia, naturally, complained to Kiran about what had happened. I interjected and said I tried to calm Livia down by saying for her to take it like constructive criticism and move on from that.
Kiran, to my surprise, said, “No, DON’T take it.” He had a scowl on his face and was agitated. I was surprised because Kiran’s role was manager and he wasn’t acting like one. He wasn’t even in the room to witness the incident and was quick to make his own judgement based on what Livia said. Okay, perhaps there’s some history between him and the sales department that I didn’t know about, but still…
Kiran then proceeded to say that NO OTHER department is to come into our department and tell us what to do and what not to do. He even added that if anybody from another department came in and wanted us to do something, ie. help out with anything, say no. Just make an excuse not to do it, ie. We’re busy, etc. etc. etc. And if you offered or volunteered to help out another department, and somehow ran into difficulties, that would be your own fault and Kiran himself wasn’t ever going to bail you out of such a mess. Livia was happy that Kiran had her back.
But think about that last part for a moment: So, we’re all in the same organization/company and we’re supposed to “hate” other departments and not work together? Sadly, Kiran wasn’t the only manager to say this. I’ve heard this sort of instruction from other organizations I’ve worked for, too: Do not agree to help another department when they come asking for help.
I would like to believe that this is stuff you probably just see in movies or TV dramas, but it actually happens in real life too, which is very unfortunate.
With that same company, it was about a year later when there was a business trip to the Philippines, and I was one of the staffers requested to make the trip. I didn’t want to go, but I was told I had to go.
To make a long story short, by that time I had been promoted and was no longer in Kiran’s department, but I was still reporting to him, ie. he was still my immediate manager. During this trip, each department was supposed to put together some sort of performance for the clients. I was not involved in the performance part of the trip, but, again, I was with Kiran’s group.
There was a list with the order in which each department was to do its performance. The company’s Director of Operations, Hillary, asked me to let Kiran know that she wanted the order of the performances changed, which impacted Kiran’s group. (I don’t remember exactly now, but Kiran’s group was supposed to go later than scheduled.) Okay, so I went to Kiran and relayed the message. Kiran snapped and said something to the effect that I’m on his team, not Team Hillary. If I wanted to be on Team Hillary, I might as well not be on his team. I was taken aback and tried to explain I was just relaying the message, but that fell on deaf ears.
I didn’t think anything of it at that immediate moment, but Kiran essentially was done with me. He refused to speak to me again the rest of the trip. Every time I was around, he had a scowl on his face. Every time he was talking to others, he was his charming self. Okay. Whatever.
I was just the messenger. But again, I was used to this sort of thing. Growing up, I had experienced the same sort of thing with my parents. I would be a messenger to deliver some “bad” news. The recipient of the news would snap and accuse me of being on that team and not this team, etc. etc. etc. I was used to it. So, when this happened in a professional setting, I guess I was unfazed. If this could happen at home, it could happen anywhere else.
Back to the Kiran saga. When we returned to Vancouver a few days later after the business trip, I had it out with him in the office. I was no longer going to be treated like I was a slave. When he made an unreasonable request in the office from that point on, I stood up to him and said it was not reasonable or acceptable.
From an employee’s standpoint, my response would be labeled as me being disgruntled or uncooperative. But if you looked at things from my point of view, I was always being cordial and cooperative but there has to be a limit in terms of how poorly bosses treated me. That behaviour exhibited by Kiran during the latter part of that business trip made me not take him seriously anymore. In fact, we had several disagreements in the office after that trip. I was not going to be bullied or treated like a second-class citizen just because he no longer liked me for relaying a message from the Director of Operations.
We still hung out for lunch at times during work — and there are more stories about that, too, some of which were unpleasant — but I no longer took him seriously. More on that on another post.
A lot of people around us are mean. Inconsiderate. Rude. They’re all around us. Since they are like that, well, then it’s fair game that I criticize them. Starting now – right here and right now.
So, the other day (last Sunday at 7 p.m., in fact… according to the time stamp on the photo that I took), I visited the local McDonald’s. Not wanting to endure receiving poor service and/or dealing with unfriendly cashiers yet again (my experience has often been cashiers not smiling and/or not even bothering to greet the customer), I used the mobile app to order the meal and requested McDonald’s “table service.” It’s simple. You just enter the table #, and they’re supposed to bring it to your table.
Soon after I ordered through the app, a McDonald’s employee – a young lady – brought a tray out with items that looked like what I had ordered. She walked right past my table and took it to another table where two guys were seated. She said to them in a very cheerful voice, “Did you guys order this?”
I waved at her and said, “I did.” She brought the tray over and placed it at my table, and left without a word. No “Can I get you anything else?” or “Is that everything?” No, she put the tray down and walked away WITHOUT A WORD. And no, she didn’t re-join the kitchen or the counter, or wherever she was supposed to go. She went BACK to that table with the two guys and said something to them before leaving.
I was having my meal, sipping on the hot tea, and I would say about 25 minutes later, that same young lady came back into the customer area. She re-joined that same table and sat down with the two guys. Apparently, she was off-duty at that point, and they were discussing college classes, etc., and in their conversation they were – including she – using swear words. I was still in the middle of my hot tea, and that’s why I was still there. And since the area was pretty empty – but not without customers (such as myself) – I could hear their conversation. It wasn’t that I wanted to.
Her actions were highly unprofessional. I have a contact at the head office, so I discussed this incident with that person. I didn’t mention the swear words, though. I stuck to the lack of service with this so-called “table service.” What that lady does in her free time – swearing at her place of work – is none of my business. But being unprofessional while still on duty… when I’m the customer… well, it’s definitely my business. The tables have numbers on there, and I input my table number, yet this McDonald’s employee was unprofessional in carrying the tray to where her friends were sitting – sure, cater to your friends first, right? – instead of doing her job. The worst part was this dropping off the tray and not saying a word to me while returning to her friends. Unprofessional. Gutless.
During my brief LA trip on August 20 and 21, I had a brief stop at San Francisco International Airport.
Feeling hungry, I stopped by Mission Bar & Grill inside the airport to have a late lunch before boarding my next flight home to Vancouver.
I decided to have their Fried Calamari along with an orange juice. It was 2:30 pm at the time, and fairly busy – but I didn’t have to wait long for the food to arrive. (In fact, based on the time stamps on the photos I took, the calamari took less than 10 minutes to come to my table.)
The calamari came with some excellent dipping sauce. I enjoyed it – it was awesome.
The staff was friendly and professional – exactly what you would expect in an establishment at a busy international airport. Not a fancy meal, but I would say everything was great. Awesome experience.
Okay, quite a few people have said, “Don’t go to Starbucks,” in the context of saving money by making your own coffee, etc.
I think this might be the way to go, moving forward.
No, it’s not about money. As a writer, I need to be in an environment that helps me focus and write. Being at places such as Starbucks has helped in the past. That’s why I keep going back.
After last weekend’s “incident,” however, followed by today’s situation, I might have to re-consider.
Today, I was sitting in the patio area of the Starbucks located in Gastown, in downtown Vancouver. Suddenly, this man was lurking around, looking at the metal rails, eyeballing the rails. It seemed like he had lost something.
I later realized he was some sort of handyman called over by the store. Later, I was rattled by somebody behind me – a guy in Starbucks uniform squatting down on the ground looking at the footing of the rails, apparently. He then got up and was soon joined by a Korean woman who wasn’t in uniform but whom I assumed was an employee. She was on the phone talking to somebody. I thought they – all three of them – had lost something and was looking for it.
But anyway, next thing I knew, the uniformed employee and the Korean woman disappeared, leaving the handyman. He started working on the rails, banging on it as he was working on screwing/unscrewing things. He worked around the entire railings, going from post to post.
Now, during this entire time, none of them had the courtesy or decency to say anything to me or other customers out on the patio, apologizing for (the shaking and the noise of) the rattling of the railings. That, to me, is 100% unacceptable.
If you’re going to be working on the railings and might be banging at stuff and disturbing the customers who are trying to enjoy their beverages or snack items in peace, SAY SOMETHING. Anything. Like, “Sorry for the noise, but we’re…”Yet, none of the three people had the courtesy to say anything.
Does anyone not care about customer service anymore? Or even know what that entails?
(This was originally posted on one of my food blogs, LetsGrabABurger.Wordpress.com)
Over the past year, McDonald’s has installed self-service kiosks in their locations across Canada, and in the past few months has come up with “table service” – where they would bring the food to your table as you wait.
Today, I ordered a combo at their Surrey/Guildford location and requested “table service,” but guess what?
I received an empty cup instead of the beverage I ordered when using the self-serve kiosk.
I was there for more than half an hour, and I looked around at other tables when the staff brought over those customers’ orders. Yup. It seemed like others were receiving their beverages instead of empty cups!
So, chalk this one up as “inconsistent service.” Or, as I call it, “half-table service.”
Interestingly, a week earlier when I was at the Kingsway/Victoria location in Vancouver, there wasn’t even an option provided on the kiosk window to have table service! They had those medallion things for table service at the kiosks, though!
Again, inconsistency… Yikes… Can McDonald’s get anything right?