The Other Place – West Des Moines
- This one pains me to write, but if I was a first-time customer, I doubt I’d be back.
- My wife and I met up with some friends at the Des Moines-version of this popular UNI (University of Northern Iowa) hang out. Our friends–a husband-and-wife couple–are both UNI grads. So am I. Our expectations were high, but only because we had a well-known standard.
- I knew we were in trouble when I had to flag the busboy to grab our server. Nearly 10 minutes had passed since we’d been sat. Not a great first impression either when she comes out clearly chewing the remains of some snack from the back. Ugh.
- Kerry and I like to do half and half on our pizza. It stems from my great love for anchovies. No joke. We told our server what we wanted—half for me, half for her. She came back frazzled about five minutes later, asking us to repeat the order. “Not good,” I said to Kerry. “Not good at all.” It was obvious to me that she hadn’t written it down the first time and forgot it.
- Sure enough, the order came out wrong. Like, really wrong. “Not even in the same ballpark” kind of wrong.
- Normally a messed up order means your server will bring out a salad, breadsticks, or something to eat so you don’t awkwardly stare down your dining companions as they enjoy dinner. Not here. I managed to wrangle a wayward piece of pizza off the botched pie. Otherwise, it would have been a long wait. (They literally took the pizza back, by the way.)
- Little trick: when the food comes out late but hot, it’s the kitchen’s fault. If it comes out late but cold, it’s the server/food runner’s fault.
- The manager eventually came out and mumbled something about a free pizza then shuffled back to the kitchen.
- Final thought: The College Street OP it wasn’t. Like I said, I have a loyalty to this restaurant and will definitely be back. That said, they have some things to shore up before more memories can be made.
Starbucks – West Des Moines
- My experience with this particular Starbucks is somewhat schizophrenic. The baristas are fantastic. Warm, kind, conversational–all the things you’d want in someone serving you coffee. Unfortunately, this is where the positive experience ends. Good employees can make up for a lot, but they can’t reverse a bad experience single-handedly.
- For starters, there are flies everywhere in this store. The tables at the front, near the middle, and the couches in the back room all have flies buzzing around. I was meeting with a friend here recently and counted six flies within a 5 ft. radius of where we were sitting. It’s hard to engage in conversation when you’re constantly swatting at winged disease carriers. Ga-ross.
- I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for the flies, but does it really matter? Perception is reality. When I see flies, I think “dirty.” Flies are okay for a garbage dump, not a coffee shop.
- Lastly, every so often I’ll pull up and see employees sitting in the parking lot smoking in plain view. Listen, if you want to smoke, fine. That’s your choice. When you’re “in uniform,” you should at least have the common courtesy to attempt being discreet. Walking through a plume of tobacco smoke is not the best first impression when you’re walking in the front door.
- Final thought: Like I said, love the people here. But people can only take you so far. Starbucks prides itself on being an experience. That experience only works if all the players are on board.
Fuel Juice Bar – West Des Moines
- I walked in at 9:10a. The lights were still off in the front half of the store and no one was at the counter. I stood there for a few moments before anyone came out. You’re either open at 9a or you’re not.
- One of the first things I noticed was a sign on the counter promoting their Facebook fan page. With the extra time I had while waiting, I checked it out. Bad idea. No updates within the past month. If you’re going to promote something like that, why not make it worth my while? How about a “Check in on Facebook” discount? Check in, show the cashier, and you get 15% off your order? Simple.
- Finally someone showed up. The young man working looked, how do I say this kindly, disheveled. It was clear he hadn’t showered. His work outfit was Nike gym shorts and a mismatch Under Armour t-shirt. (I have this thing about wearing two different brands. It bugs me.) I realize it’s an appearance thing. But do I want my smoothie made by someone who couldn’t even shower before coming into work? My thought process is, “If he can’t clean himself, what else in this shop isn’t clean?”
- After I was greeted, his phone rang. He took the call. “Can’t it wait?” I thought. Whatever it was, the call wasn’t important. he hung up within 30 seconds of taking it.
- As I was waiting for my drink, another customer came in. It was awkward because he didn’t know where to go to order and I didn’t know where to go to pick up my drink. We bumbled around each other and found a happy medium. The layout of the store was confusing and clunky. These details should be considered.
- Ultimately, it’s not the employee’s fault. He behaves that way because management allows him to. If there are no repercussions, why would he change?
- Final thought: I’m rooting for these guys. I really am. They’re the “smoothie home” of Olympic champion, Gabby Douglas. (Gabby trains at nearby Chow’s Gymnastics.) It’s going to take some work, though. Give your employees dress code guidelines, make 9a your “hard” open time, hang highly visible signs that show people where to go, and for God’s sake, update your fan page.
Some of these points may come off nitpicky. I realize this. The experience your customers, members, or clients have with you is one of the only true competitive advantages left. This cannot be overstated.
These were my thoughts as they happened. If I’m thinking these things, what are the chances that other people are too? Wouldn’t that be something business owners would want to know?
What was the last bad customer experience you had? What made it less-than-stellar?