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  • My Turn For Thoughts On Service

    Posted by Dan from Madison on August 24th, 2008 (All posts by )

    It seems Carl las opened up quite the can of worms talking about the shoddy service he receives on a regular basis in Chicago.  First off, Carl needs to move to Racine or Valparaiso and start commuting every day so he can begin to enjoy the fruits of living rural.  Jokes aside, I do have some relevant thoughts.

    I agree with Ginny in her post on the subject on the red/blue states.

    I tend to agree with the comments about red state/blue state divisions, though clearly it is often a matter of rural/urban and mompop/corporate.

    I will even take it one further.  I think on top of the rural/urban split we have an educated/uneducated split.  Wisconsin is a “blue” state, although it is by a very low margin.  The urban areas of Madison and Milwaukee are heavily blue, but the rest of the state, mostly rural, is reddish.  Add to this the fact that the school system in Madison is pretty good (for a public school system) and the fact that Madison has very little crime/poverty and you have a pretty good recipe for a decent service sector.  I don’t frequent fast food joints often, but when I do enter one I am pleased that most of the time I am greeted with a good attitude and people trying their best.

    In the end, when I am spending less than ten dollars on anything I am not expecting cherubs with rose petals to line my way, I just want people to try to make it as pleasant as possible.  I understand that the girl or guy at the checkout counter at the local supermarket has to scan and total things up all day long – that sort of work would drive me nuts.  So if she or he makes an error I am usually pretty polite about it.

    One of my local supermarkets just added self-service lines.  I love this and use it often.  I can blaze through these lines.  The only issue is that if I am picking up beer or wine the attendant has to check the age and slow everything down.  Not that big of a deal though.

    At the higher-end restaurants we are fortunate to have the University of Wisconsin.  This sentence doesn’t appear to make sense, but it is totally true.  Almost always the high end places get the best and brightest students working their butts off to make me happy.  At times it is almost embarrassing how hard they try to serve me.  

    There is a local steakhouse here that employs what I call the “service swarm”.  You can count no fewer than ten people who take care of you at your meal, from the guy who fills the water (bottled or tap tonight, sir?) to a person who sweeps crumbs off of your table.  White napkin or black tonight, sir?  They have a separate “bread dude”.  What the hell?  I feel like I am a sultan or something every time I go in there. 

    A very large percentage of these people are students from rural areas of Wisconsin.  I just love their down to earth personalities, the way they talk, and their body language.  It reminds me of where I am from.  They talk like I talk, and they see things the way I do.

    I think a lot of the misfortune that Carl sees in his daily travails comes from a totally broken school system, with a huge urban population that tirelessly sucks on the teat of the state to get by.  Fast-food workers who did their job like Carl describes it would be mercilessly canned instantly here in Madison.  I send a lot of certified letters, and care packages to troops – even trips to the post office are efficient and fast.  There is a lot of goofy stuff that goes on here, but the level of service you get in most things is pretty good.

    On a personal level, I can speak from experience that customers in Madison are also expecting high levels of service now.  I own a HVAC distribution facility and the level of service has to be improved upon at a high rate.  One time – just one time – making a customer mad or letting them down could lose their business for a very long time.  My employees are all locals and do a very good job for me – they shoot the shit with my customers, talk about the Packers or Badgers.  We are like bartenders at times.  And as the owner, I am expected to shoot the shit with the customers as well.  It is just how it is done.  I don’t necessarily like it as I usually have more important things to do than talk about the weather, but if it has to be done, it has to be done.  I think that I have an advantage over something like a fast food joint since I stock over fifteen thousand SKUs, where a McDonalds may have fifty.  My employees rarely show signs of burnout since every transaction is different.  Literally.  Many transactions require the looking up of technical information or cross referencing of numbers.  And we deal with quite a cast of characters, to say the least. 

    You would think that a place that features repetitive transactions would at least rotate the staff from station to station.  Maybe work the register one day, do fries the next, drinks the next, or whatever.  Anything to make it easier on their day.

     

    2 Responses to “My Turn For Thoughts On Service”

    1. fred lapides Says:

      Comment deleted.

    2. Roy Lofquist Says:

      Karsten Manufacturing, maker of the very popular Ping line of golf clubs, is located in Phoenix, Arizona. They regularly rotate their employees to different stations. You don’t usually see so many smiling faces on a production line.