Customer Service…the hint is in the name

For most of the year I live in Japan. Japan has some of the best customer service I’ve experienced in my time and travels on this great Earth of ours.

But, I also spend a lot of time in my native Canada. Canada has this reputation of being peopled by “nice” people, and they treat everyone so “nice”. This is an illusion that we, as Canadians, love to believe in. But, the truth is, Customer Service in Canada is pretty poor.

Here’s my experience from today.

I thought I’d treat myself to a movie. Last week I did the same. Hey, it’s cheap on Tuesdays down at the local Cineplex. Last week I had the whole Canadian experience: bought myself a Tim Horton‘s donut and coffee and went to the movies. I sat in the lobby of the Cineplex, drank a little coffee, exchanged some pleasantries with the “nice” staff and then went in, complete with coffee, to catch Baby Driver. Nice!

This week I thought I’d repeat the experience. I went to Tim Horton’s got my coffee and cookie and headed to the Cineplex. So pleased was I at last week’s experience I even had signed up for their “Scene” card!

But, like a scene from Lord of the Rings, I was greeted by the gatekeeper. A troll that informed me that I had a choice to make: the coffee or the movie. I explained that last week I took the coffee in with me. The gatekeeper said that was impossible as they have a strict “no outside drinks” policy.

Customer Service Tip #1: never call the customer a liar. Even if you are sure they are (btw I wasn’t lying)

I said “OK, I’ve already got my coffee so I’ll refund the ticket”. Gatekeeper said ok and sent me to the ticket desk. Times are tough for the Cineplex because they seemingly can’t afford to have any staff. There was no one at the ticket desk. I had to go to the concession counter (where a group of rather rotund staff were snacking). After waiting in line so that customers could get their food and drink I was served. A senior member of staff had to come over to do the refund. I once again explained the situation. He shrugged.

It was here they missed a trick: they could have said, ok, last week was a mistake but since you’re already here and have a coffee just go in. But please know that normally we don’t allow in outside food and drink.

Customer Service Tip #2: if the customer wants something that costs you nothing, give it to them.

The manager then proceeded to take this wonderful opportunity to TRAIN THE JUNIOR STAFF. It took forrreeevveerrrr to get the refund.

I left the cinema, coffee in hand, and tweeted the following:

After doing some other things, I got back home. I had a response to my tweet!

I find Twitter to be the best medium to contact customer support. I was happy! Maybe I would get some recognition of the situation. Well done Cineplex!

Customer Service Tip #3: The customer wants to be acknowledged

So I sent a DM back with the details.

I thought they would say sorry and do something that costs them close to nothing: credit my scene card with a movie visit (note: not give a free movie) and push me 1 movie closer to the Buy 10 get 1 free. In other words, give me a 10th of a movie – which on a Tuesday would be worth 59 cents!

See Customer Service Tip #2, above.

Here’s there response:

Hi Phil, Thanks for getting back with additional information! We sincerely apologize as your recent visit with us was not satisfactory. We do have a strict outside food policy that all of our theatre locations have to abide by. We apologize for the miscommunication during your recent visits and have forwarded your concerns to the theatre management team for coaching purposes, as we do not want a situation such as this to ever reoccur in the future. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

I was shocked. I didn’t tweet as a way of helping them update their employee handbook!

I responded:

Your definition and mine of strict is different I guess because employees don’t seem to be informed of this ‘strict’ policy consistently.
I appreciate that as a potential customer my time is of literally no value to you (as you have demonstrated) but a goodwill gesture that would cost cineplex nothing would have gone a long way.

Shall we step back a minute and look at this policy?

All of us know why this policy is in place.

It is not to protect the cinemas from damage – Cineplex are more than happy for you to take THEIR food and drink into the cinema. The policy is in place to force you into buying food and drink from their concession stand. Given time I’m sure Cineplex could come up with other reasons – perhaps to prevent you from bringing in alcohol, though presumably you would smuggle alcohol in, not carry it openly and as they don’t search you on the way in its not an effective rule for that.

So we all know. It’s a rule to make them more money. It does nothing for you, the customer.

Customer Service Tip #4: If your policies aren’t a legal requirement or making things better for the customer, you should start to question those policies.

I know what some of you will say. Wow, Phil, this is a real First World Problem. Boo hoo, you couldn’t take your coffee into your afternoon matinee.

But that is not, in fact, the point. I don’t think it is a First World Problem.

The idea of good customer service should not be something we’re grateful for. It should be the standard operating procedure for companies. How did we get to the stage where we sit and take it (and grumble about it) and then go into work and dish it out? It has become ‘normal’ to get crap service. We used to complain when we got bad service, now we are amazed when we get good.

We accept (but bemoan) Robocalls. Misleading advertising for financial products. Fear based drug pushing on TV. Rude and inattentive staff in banks. Defective merchandise at the big box store.

It is days like today and experiences like this that make me shake my head and pity the state of things in the True North Strong and Free. We might be a kinder, gentler nation, but we are being preyed upon by corporations who see us as simply sheep to be sheared and then slaughtered (and if you think I’m exaggerating as someone who was pitched a reverse mortgage and then lost their house).

Ok. Rant over.

At least I got my Tim Horton’s coffee*

 

 

 

*(another myth Canadians love to believe: Tim Horton’s is Canadian. It’s not. Your money goes to a faceless Brazilian corporation. Sorry, Canada.)

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