Saturday, March 10, 2007

This experience decides the next

I'm not a big fan of fast-food, but Long John Silvers is one of the few chains I like. Unfortunately, there's no longer any LJS locations in my immediate area, but I was out of town yesterday, and while going through the area, decided to stop by their Long John Silvers.

I placed my order, and the cashier told me the total and I took out my wallet to get the money. As I did, I noticed that the cashier dashed over to the food area and quickly completed my order, so that by the time I had my money out to hand to him, he already had my order ready. The entire transaction from the time I walked up till when I left with the food probably took 60 seconds.

Then as I was eating, a worker walked around sweeping the dining area. An elderly woman got up with her cup, obviously wanting a refill. The worker quickly reached her and asked 'Ma'am would you like me to get you a refill?' The woman stammered 'Why yes....yes I would!' obviously shocked that the worker had offered to refill her drink. A few seconds later, he walked up and asked me if I wanted a refill, then asked if my food was fine and if there was anything I needed.

The workers in this particular restaurant understood that how my current experience goes, decides if there will be another one. I was impressed when the cashier literally ran away from the counter to fill my order (normally when a fast food cashier is about to receive money, no force on earth could pull them away), so that I had my food waiting on me as soon as I paid for it. And I was floored when the working sweeping the dining area offered to refill my drink for me.

By giving me more than I expected during this experience, this particular LJS ensured that there will be another. Maybe I just caught them on a good day, or maybe this particular restaurant is committed to giving each and every customer a refreshingly positive experience.

But one thing's for certain, the next time I am in Huntsville, I'm going to give them another chance to impress me.

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Tim Jackson said...

Isn't it amazing how "little tings" can be so huge?

I miss LJS. I feel pretty happy that I have managed to find a few Popeye's Fried Chicken places around here. A little taste of home.

When the hourly workers show an interest in your experience like that, it makes a big difference and a big impression. Those kinds of experiences make a big difference for companies.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to think you'll find that level of caring service at all LJS stores, but I'd guess not. Obviously, here's an instance where the manager or franchisee is doing a good job training, supervising and motivating his workers.

Mack Collier said...

David from my experience, I've only had a worker come up and ask me if my food was ok or if I wanted a refill a couple of times at a fast food place. So it was obvious that it was a case of that particular location doing a better job of training their employees.

When we go to a fast-food place, the assumption most of us make is that we are on our own. Everything is up to us, but by a worker simply offering to refill our drinks, that greatly increases the chance that the customers there will make a return visit.

anne simons said...

We are truly living in an Alice in Wonderland down-the-rabbit-hole kind-of-world when we expect to be treated badly, or at best, ignored, by an establishment to whom we are giving our hard earned money! The owner/manager of that store is worth his weight in gold. Why do you suppose we don't see service like you experienced at more stores. Is it a $ issue?

Anonymous said...

I bet that was a great and fun experience. I guess we can't know if this is something particular on that (one) restaurant, or dependent on the brand and all their locations.

If it's a global effort the brand is doing to offer better experiences for the consumers then that's something to applaud them for. Most fast food joints take the "fast" part too literal in a bad way. They think consumers run in, eat, run out... but they usually don't take into consideration the experience they have while they're sitting.. hence, overlooking an essential part of a service business.

-Ron E.

Anonymous said...


To Anne's point -- service in those sorts of places is normally so horrendous that we are just happy when they get our order correct.

So no wonder the service you got was so noticeable. What a huge opportunity for those few who get it and actually can deliver on it.


Anonymous said...

Like Anne says, isn't it crazy when we come to expect poor service? I handled p.r. for the 300+ stores in the McDonald's co-op in the metro New York area many years ago, and while they certainly didn't attain or maintain a good level of overall service, the company and many franchisees really did try. Part of the problem with QSRs is they rely on low-paid workers, and there's high turnover. Still, though, good training, supervision and incentives for good service should help.

Mack Collier said...

"We are truly living in an Alice in Wonderland down-the-rabbit-hole kind-of-world when we expect to be treated badly, or at best, ignored, by an establishment to whom we are giving our hard earned money! The owner/manager of that store is worth his weight in gold. Why do you suppose we don't see service like you experienced at more stores. Is it a $ issue?"

I think much of it is due to the fact that store managers are under intense pressure to raise sales, yesterday. If they can't see immediate results from a program, they scrap it. And David hinted at this, but also many fast-food places have high-school or college students, and there's high turnover. Maybe management doesn't want to take the time to train the workers, for fear that they will leave in a week or 2?

Or maybe the management has never been shown the benefits of providing excellent customer service themselves? We think this should be second nature, but many people simply continue with their training as they work at a place, and if they are never shown the benefits of giving the customer a superior experience, they may think that there's no need to start.

Anonymous said...


Don't you just love a great customer experience?

J.D. said...

I think I've eaten at that LJS before, actually. Back when I lived at Cullman, I spent most of my time in either Huntsville or B'ham.

Honestly, I've noticed that my experience has been better in every establishment I've been in in Huntsville...I've often wondered if it's the town, because it seems cleaner and more well-groomed than Birmingham, and just slightly more upscale.

In any case, I'd be willing to bet that the management in that particular location are nice people to work for. You see it all the time. You've got a nasty owner, which translates into nastier managers, which translates into pissed off employees, which translates into you getting a crapburger for service. My guess is that whoever runs this joint must know what they're doing to keep all their employees this happy. Either that or they've got a whipping post out back that they use frequently.

Anonymous said...

Great story, Mack. I just love your insights! Indeed, each interaction with a customer can have such a big impact, if only we make it a priority to do so.

For some insight into what a fast food restaurant owner/manager goes through with their young hires, there was an interesting comment on my blog post about Papa John's pizza (here is the link to her comment: She seems willing to learn and improve.

Let's hope companies start taking seriously the impact of customer service on their brands. As Drew said, the ones who get it right will really stand out, in a good way! It will be an investment of time and money, but it is worth it.