A Comedy of Customer Service Errors – a Marketing vs Sales story

Ruby Tuesday on North Carolina Highway 54 in D...
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It is so important for Marketing and Sales to communicate. Ruby Tuesday and other chains must spend a fortune on their marketing; from print to broadcast, decor, menus, layout, everything. But if the on-the-floor experience doesn’t match the marketing, whose fault is it? Marketing or Operations – or both?

A true story. The little things really DO matter.

I was telling colleagues this story of a customer experience I had, and they all said I positively must blog about it. It’s true and not exaggerated, so I hope you enjoy this crazy little adventure of mine… To me, it is a great example of how operations and marketing must work together or both sides suffer.

Turn on the Wayback Machine

Waaaay back in 2004, I was a troubleshooting store manager at a (then) new outlet mall in a (then) fairly unsophisticated and remote location in North Georgia. Thankfully, the area has come a long way since then.

It was a tough adjustment for me, spoiled from working in major metropolitan areas with a wealth of hiring potential… “Dueling Banjos” from the movie “Deliverance” was playing in the back of my mind…

We just wanted to eat

It was time for the annual inventory, so, in anticipation of a long worknight, I planned to treat my staff to dinner and some great coffee. Simple enough – or so I thought. I forgot that this area was satisfied withcoffee that came in jars of brown powder. But I held hope for dinner… a new Ruby Tuesday had opened in the far end of the mall’s parking lot. Hooray – we can avoid Food Court heartburn!

An actual coffee bar had opened in the food court, too! I was so happy we had the option of real food and real coffee to ease the dreaded task of counting every item in the store – accurately.

Even better, Ruby’s had curb side pickup. I called ahead and ordered for everyone. They gave me my total, asked for the description of my car, and told me the order would be ready to pick up in 20 minutes. Perfect! I thought to myself, I’ll head on over while the staff closes the day’s business. How much easier could it get?

Wanted: Revolving Doors

I headed over to the Ruby Tuesday restaurant and parked in the pick-up spot in front of the curbside door near the backside of the restaurant. While watching every other waiting car get orders filled, I noticed something odd… The server did not go back in to the restaurant through the same door he exited. Instead, he walked to the front entrance… huh? He did this 4 more times, each time moving a little faster to get to that front door. Not surprisingly, my curiosity was peaking. Why didn’t he go back in the way he came out?

I was kept waiting and waiting for my order. The next time the server popped out, I waved him over and he assured me my order was on the way. Hmmmmm….  I waited a little longer and still no order. I decided I had to investigate. I left my car and now I’m annoyed for keeping my staff waiting. I walked to the curb side pick-up door and surprise! Locked. Now we all know why the server kept returning by way of the front door, but still don’t know why he couldn’t do anything about it.

We can’t make that item for ya – or anything else either

I walked to the front door and the hostess directed me to the service bar which handled curbside orders. I walked over and inquired. Someone went to check and returned apologetic. They were out of lettuce!!! They said they were waiting to know what I wanted to substitute. And they were going to ask me when?!? And what restaurant runs out of lettuce? Seriously? (only back then we weren’t saying “Seriously” so I probably said, “Really?”).

I asked about 3 other items – nope, nada, don’t have the items to make it. Finally I settled for something I hoped the staff would like and they went back into the kitchen after some more mumblings of apologies.

I didn’t trust them anymore

I decided to wait at the bar since it was hot outside, not to mention I also now had a trust issue emerging. Boy, good thing Twitter was still 2 years away… what a stream of bad customer service tweets were waiting here.

I’m still sitting there waiting… I was the only customer in the area, so I became privy to some staff chatter I probably wasn’t supposed to hear:

Why aren’t you using the curb door to come back in?

It’s locked.

Well, go get the key! 

Steve has it.

Well where’s Steve?

Nobody’s seen him for the last 20 minutes.


If there had been Twitter, my feed would have been smoking! You couldn’t have scripted this better.

Then, finally, my order came out. Whew! But I was running out of time and still had to go to the “gourmet” coffee shop in the food court…

Again, what was I thinking?

So I get to the coffee place in the food court. They were still open for a few hours, so I should have no trouble here.  hahahahahahahahahaha :D

We only have regular?

I ordered a few flavored coffees. The young lady said, “We’re out of the flavored coffees, we just have regular.” I stepped back to look at the sign to make sure I was actually standing at the “Coffee bar.” Yup.  I was at the right place – at least according to the sign…

I asked her when some flavored coffee might be ready.

She said they weren’t going to make anymore.

I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt by asking if she were closing early or some such story that would make some kind of sense of her statement. She said no, that they just only make so much flavored coffee per day and so she wasn’t going to make anymore.

Wait, there’s more.

No stir sticks?

I was running out of time, so I just gave up and ordered regular coffee all around. Then I asked for cream and sugar. She wanted a specific number of creams and sugars before she would give me any.

And lastly – she was out of spoons and stir sticks! Unbelievably, I had to walk down to each of the next 3 food court stores before I could find spoons. The first one actually had some, but told me I couldn’t have any of his because I didn’t buy anything from him.

I was beginning to feel like this was some kind of customer service Twilight Zone and that surely I would wake up soon! First the food fiasco and now the food court and coffee stand fail.

Nope. It was real.

As I was walking out with my coffee and spoons, I spotted a familiar face at the courtesy desk and recounted my horrors of customer service. We agreed the hiring pool was just too dry. We wrapped up our conversation on the trials of hiring in an arena of folks that thought getting a Wal-Mart was their route to becoming akin to a big city.

Then, up walks an unshaven young guy in overalls and flip-flops asking for an application for a job. The courtesy desk host asked for which store was he applying? He said he didn’t know – what stores did they have? We all laughed and told him to turn around as he was in the middle of over 40 different stores in the food court alone.

He shrugged, we wanted to laugh.

I walked back to my store to share our regular coffee and non-lettuce bearing adjusted menu items… and went to work on our inventory.

So, corporate, listen up. What happens on the floor is what determines your ROI in marketing. You can spend all you want on marketing, but if operations aren’t up to par, your money is wasted.

Shopping Small is Shopping Wise for Busy Entrepreneurs

Shopping Small is Shopping Wise for Busy Entrepreneurs

Are you guilty of lost time picking through discount racks to NOT find what you need?

It is a far more enjoyable shopping experience to “Shop Small.” Since Entrepreneurs are always short on time, small business shops and services can be a huge time saver once you establish a relationship with the staff. And since you entrepreneurs are always watching every dime,  shopping small keeps you out of hot water when you need your needs met. For example, your small business will educate you on extending the life of your purchases, and proper use. In addition, with your sales history, they can make suggestions for wiser future purchases to supplement what you already own.

You will get additional value if you ASK your small business:

  • Do you keep my purchases on file?
  • Will I be notified of sales or specials?
  • Will you let me know if something I expressed an interest in goes on sale or is running out?
  • Can I work with the same salesperson each time if I find a good match for me?
  • Do you have a loyalty program?
  • Is there a maintenance alert program (for home and office machines, appliances, landscapers, etc) perhaps via email or texting?

ASK, ASK, ASK! You’d be surprised what they might offer for your customer service experience if you only ask.

I know our clients are very happy when we notice items of concern or mistakes FOR them before a consumer does. And by the same token, we are very happy to have small businesses who help US with their specific goods or services so we can keep our minds focused on our clients.

Generally, small business owners LOVE what they do. Give them a chance to treat you special and you’ll save a lot of time and money – and stress!

:) Take 5 minutes to post a good review on social media or review sites (like Yelp or Google Places for Business) for the small businesses who make your daily life easier! They work hard to keep you coming back.

Are Marketing Pundits Defining Social Media Without Consideration for Small Business?

Empty ConversationIn my experience with new clients, I sometimes wonder how it is they are so far behind in understanding social media concepts. But then, I sometimes can’t fault them.

  • Uncertain platform choices
  • The demise of some platforms.
  • Social media best practice content purposed primarily toward larger businesses and corporations.

Add to that the unspoken secret among experienced social media users – there truly is a long learning curve before the ROI kicks in with any social media.

Now for the bright side.

You’re a small business owner. You are successful because of the relationships you have with your customers. Sure, product has a say in your success, but it’s how you deliver on product that ultimately leads to your success, right?

So. completely forget everything you know about traditional marketing when you sit at your technology board of choice. Put on your on-the-floor sales hat and remember how you approach customers walking in the door. You’re not like the chain stores that bark hellos at you the moment a customer enters. YOU approach your customers in a relationship building manner.

You greet them, engage in a little chat, draw them into conversation around their needs, educate them on how to best get those needs met, offer suggestions on what you can provide toward those goals, fulfill with product or service, deliver, and follow-up on satisfaction. You do this while maintaining consciousness regarding their needs, not yours. Why? Because you know satisfaction is key to repeat/referral business.

Ok, now simply use exactly that strategy in your online content implementation.

Yes, it really is that simple. If you still have a hard time wrapping your head around that, work it in reverse. Think clearly about what you would NOT do on the sales floor. Then don’t do it on social media!!!

Best example? While you may have displays with a call to action firmly in place, you still do not verbally approach customers with a call to action. Then why do so many social media users do that in their updates? Because they are thinking of social media in the context of traditional marketing which is primarily focused on enticement and calls to action. Stop it!

Middle Age and Furrowed Brow Lines – Ugh.

Furrowed brows

I’ve got to stop furrowing my brow when I work!

The lines are getting deeper and more permanent! Yikes! I’m even starting to get a secondary set of lines – a bit scary! Not to mention an unattractive billboard for aging!

Next time I sweat, there’ll probably be waterfalls going down my nose! On the upside, at least I have proof I don’t get Botox treatments! Hmmm… why is that an upside? I’ll probably HAVE to get Botox treatments if I can’t become more conscious about my brow while I work.

This is serious stuff for Boomers!

I’m already in my mid 50s and don’t need to add to the creases nature is already providing. Of course, I could just flaunt the furrows by assimilating the professorial look of over-thoughtful academia. Nah, that only works for male professors with leather elbow patches on their ugly plaid jackets. Never understood why anyone would want to EXTEND the life of a jacket that ugly by protecting the elbows.

Why is it so bad to have deep furrows in your brow?

Ok, so, worst case scenario if I continue to unconsciously and furiously furrow my brow while I work intensely at my desktop:

  • Mom might have been right:  “If you keep making that face it will stick!”
  • I’ll need Spackle instead of foundation makeup to fill in the furrows.
  • People might think I am in a permanent state of confusion or concern – or worse – anger…?

Did you know that if you search Google images for deep furrows between eyes, you don’t see much of that. Instead, you see a bunch of images of Botox being injected. Hmmmm…. no superficial messaging there.

Maybe I could invent a removable pressure device on the top of my prescription glasses to rest against the area between the brows to prohibit furrowing while working. Nah. Don’t think it would sell enough to cover my costs.

One last idea – a mirror at the top of my monitor! Nah, that won’t work either. I’ll start noticing other defects like the furrows that are showing up between my cheeks and nose.

Jeez. Gravity – another enemy of aging!

The Win-Win of Social Media Through Unexpected Uses. Pt. 2: Hidden Genius of QR Codes!

Duncan Hines Cake Mix QR Code

Still think QR Codes are useless?

When QR codes (QR = quick response) were introduced, success was implied. And then… nothing… because there weren’t enough people with phones with scanning ability.

BUT, with SmartPhone purchases on an exponential rise, and FREE QR code apps available on every device, it is inevitable the use of QR Codes by merchants, businesses, non-profits, etc., will also begin to surge.

Here’s the unexpected perk of a QR code I picked up the other day. Now, guys, don’t stop reading because I mention shopping! Because if you own a business, you will pick up on the importance of this example…

I was in Publix, and looking for a cake mix. As you see in the image above, when I turned over a box I was thinking about purchasing, I noticed the QR code. I thought, “Genius!” If I had hesitated over that selection, here was a quick way to check a recipe choice and determine – WHILE I AM STILL IN THE GROCERY STORE – if there were any ingredients I didn’t have at home and could buy on the spot! Otherwise, I may have gone home, looked up their website, found a cool recipe with that item, but found I was missing an ingredient or two.

This QR Code saved me an unnecessary trip and the ability to determine whether this product could serve another use for my needs. Without this option, I may have only considered it for its basic use and perhaps not purchased it, rather than consider this purchase for other dessert possibilities.


Here most of us consider QR codes just website driven. Ok, big deal, we can get to the website faster on our phones… But, no, now it has practical applications, too.

AND, for small businesses and non-profits, this should be golden. Cheap, easy and FREE!

How about printed QR codes for:

  • “liking” your business page on Facebook since most of your staff rarely remembers to tell customers about your page (and even you!)
  • following you on Twitter (another forgotten child)
  • for your newsletter subscriptions (need I say it again?)
  • videos and Your YouTube or Vimeo channel!
  • LOYALTY programs – Hello!?
  • a calendar event
  • your website  (which of course has all your CURRENT store information and specials, and all your social media links, right?!)
  • Your LinkedIn Profile -(if you have completed your profile and made a company page)
  • A contest – “scan to like our Facebook page and be entered in our contest to win a —“
  • products with specific FAQs (have you missed potential sales on certain high$$ items because you were too busy with other customers to answer questions?)
  • PayPal payments
  • Plain text or links of any kind

The list goes on and on… If you think of it, you can create a QR code for it. Photos, recipes, how-tos, suggested uses…

Where should you display these QR Codes? EVERYWHERE.

  • your store window
  • at events – you can’t talk to everyone at once
  • at your POS locations – while they have your attention
  • on products – to learn more if you are busy with other customers
  • on the back of your business card – there’s never enough room for all you want to say
  • brochures, flyers, ads – again, never enough room
  • as updates on your social media pages
  • on your car – tell me who doesn’t have their phone handy in their car at a stoplight?
  • on consumables – Peanuts in this cookie? Gluten Free? – get the picture?
  • on menus (no to-go menus lost in the car or stuffed in a junk drawer – handy on their phone to help them decide to come back)

Even doctor’s offices are applying this technology. Patient goes to a referred doctor and has a QR code for all their info for them to scan. Cool, huh? It’s already happening.

Remember, it’s an image

It’s virtually just a photo and anywhere you can place a photo, you can place a QR code! And the same FREE apps that give you the ability to scan a QR Code also give you the ability to create one!

Bottom line? It costs virtually nothing for you to be ahead of the crowd and attract the growing demographic of SmartPhone users (which obviously has disposable income if they are buying a SmartPhone – they aren’t cheap!).

Technology Marketing No Brainer, right?

Are we having fun yet?!

1.29.2013 P.S. It’s 2 days since I posted this and look what I ran across in today’s media:“McDonalds tries QR Codes”

The Win-Win of Social Media Pt.1: The Perks of Pinterest

Screenshot of Pinterest Account

Social Media has become a source of everyday personal convenience as well as social! It has completely become a part of everyday life because of unexpected uses and applications. Consider the following.

Pinterest as a source or reference tool:

Example #1

A blog feed I subscribe to had a post on an easy slow cooker chicken! If you stumble on a recipe you must try, you need not print it, just pin it to one of your Pinterest boards. Pinterest is your scrapbook, idea book, memo board, and more.

With Pinterest’s great visual aspect, you need not remember labels. If you have installed the Pinterest App on your Mobile device, you can easily access your items anywhere. No paper, no ink and always ready to view!

Example #2

No time to shop? Shopping has become a luxury many of us can’t afford the time for and it can become difficult to keep up to date on trends. Cruise the Pinterest Women’s or Men’s Fashion categories for quick reference and ideas. In addition, you can often click through to the shopping source and make a purchase. Many pins provide ideas for complete outfits, ideas for accessories, and more. A big time saver.

There are countless categories to browse for any and every interest. A font of ideas.

Example #3

Are you a blogger? Always provide a picture with your blog content!

Visuals always provide higher response. If you choose your visuals well for your posts, you’ll draw more attention to your blogsite via pinning the visual of your blog from your blog.

Residuals of Pinterest as a whole:

  • Whoever follows your boards may repin your pins – giving both you and the source more exposure. They may start to follow that board or all your boards.
  • Anyone who clicked on the blog photo may start to follow the blog.
  • Potential new followers from outside of my network for your blog.
  • Potential new business via your blog to your website.
  • Share from Pinterest to other Social networks.

Viewers do not have to sign in or have an account to view pins and click through.

What have you discovered you can do with Pinterest?

Keep it Slow and Simple with LOTS of Visuals! – Seminars and Webinars, that is… :)

Seminars have your head spinning?

I’ve been asked to provide a presentation/demo on online tools that a) are free and b) easy for even the tech-challenged (these aren’t just boomers either… I’m surprised how many in their 30s have no clue).

It started with an email newsletter that I sent with a few tips on free tools. The host of the event is a subscriber and loved it, so she asked me to present on it at one of her events. (Which shows you never know where opportunity will knock).

To tell the truth, I had felt guilty about that newsletter. I had been so busy that I didn’t have time to do the newsletter I wanted, so I featured the tools. Hmm. But, turns out it was fortuitous in giving me the opportunity to speak (I loooove to speak!).

Now, how do you fill 45 minutes on tools without overwhelming the audience?

I’ve decided to keep it slow and simple. With LOTS of visuals!

I mean, don’t you attend a seminar or webinar to feel like you actually LEARNED something?! I haven’t been attending as many as I used to because I get disgusted with people who hold you captive for an hour only to gloss over the topic and then slam you with a sell at the end. And the worst are those webinars with a stagnant visual just in your face the whole time.

Give me some meat and potatoes. Give me something to chew on for a while. Give me a reason to go back to my desk and try something new.

How about you?

I hope my audience walks away with something of real value…