Brenden Schaaf / January 16, 2012

Customer Service in Contrast

I was prepared to write a blog post about the excellent service I received today at the new Discount Tire near our house, but before I even arrived home I received such terrible service elsewhere that I’ve decided to highlight both experiences because it makes the good service feel even that much better.

My wife and I were on our way to Caribou Coffee a couple miles from home this morning (we are both off for MLK Day) when our tire pressure warning light came on.  This has happened a couple times before and it has always meant that one tire was a bit low on air.  Since we had our tires filled with nitrogen a few months ago this was a surprise because nitrogen typically doesn’t leak from the tires at all as opposed to “regular air” that does (especially in winter).  After parking at Caribou, my wife noticed that the right front passenger tire was very low…as in it would probably be completely flat if we left it for the day.  Conveniently enough, within the last two months a brand new Discount Tire opened up pretty much next door to the Caribou so we hopped back in and drove across the street to get the tire fixed.  The guy told us it would probably be 20-30 minutes so we told him we’d be back in an hour and walked to Caribou to drink some coffee and read as originally planned.

When we arrived back at the Discount Tire after an hour, another gentleman was at the desk.  He gave me the van keys and then said he wanted to check what they found in the tire so he went out the garage briefly to find out.  When he got back he said they found a screw in the tire but they repaired the puncture and we were good to go.  He gave me a receipt that showed $0.00.  I asked, “there’s no charge for this?” and he replied, “not today…all we ask is that you give us a chance to earn your business the next time you need tires.”  I was blown away.  I expected to pay $50 or more and would have been happy with that.  Instead I was elated like I was after being treated so well by the Kansas City Royals last spring.  My wife and I left feeling very happy and are somewhat excited to actually need tires in the future (who can say that ever?) knowing that we will be well taken care of at Discount Tire.  I can honestly say that the next set of tires we purchase will be from Discount Tire, without question.

After leaving Discount Tire, we went to directly to Osaka Sushi and Hibachi Steakhouse to meet up with an additional four people for lunch (not be confused with the Osaka Seafood Steakhouse whose website confusingly lists some of the same locations including one in Coon Rapids but not this one in particular).  They had purchase a Groupon worth $40 good Monday through Thursday in January so today seemed like a good time to use it.  The six of us were the only ones at our table and there was only one other table being used in the Hibachi portion of the restaurant (where they cook in front of you) so they weren’t all that busy even though it was Noon when we arrived.

Upon ordering, our friends presented their Groupon and were told it was only good at dinner and that it could not be accepted for lunch.  We ordered our food and everyone examined the Groupon more closely.  Nowhere on the Groupon does it restrict the time of day that it can be used, only the day of the week.  Figuring that the waitress was just doing what she was told, our friend approached the manager.  He was again told that the Groupon could only be used at dinner.  I called up the Groupon website on my phone while this was happening and also found no restrictions listed.  Asked to explain again where on the Groupon it restricted usage to only dinner, the manager (David) then offered our friend $30 toward lunch instead of the full $40 that could be applied to dinner (according to him).  Only after an additional protest after dinner did the manager offer up a feeble “I dont’ know why it doesn’t say it on there” and finally agree to take the full $40 off their bill. He was obviously disgusted to do so and offered no apology.  If he was confused as to why it didn’t restrict time of day on the Groupon imagine how his customers felt.  He didn’t seem to care.  Especially since someone took the time to ask if the Groupon could be used for lunch and was told that, in fact, it could!!

The most interesting thing to me in our experiences at two different businesses today isn’t that we were treated well at one business and shabbily at another.  We’ve all grown accustomed to poor service so much that it is hardly a surprise to have to fight for what is right these days.  What surprised me is that the business that treated us well is a part of a national chain and the place we were treated poorly is a locally owned (presumably), small business.  I would have expected our experiences to be flipped.

What isn’t surprising is that I will beat a path to Discount Tire the next time I need work done and I will recommend that my friends do the same.  Also, I will never again set food inside any Osaka location given our treatment today.  According to my 7-year old, Behihana has better food anyway!


Brenden Schaaf / April 30, 2011

Enchanted by the Kansas City Royals

View from our seats after our tickets were exchanged. What a gorgeous stadium!

I’m in Kansas City with a few family members to catch our hometown baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, take on the Royals.  This trip was planned back in the depths of winter as a way to celebrate my recent birthday while enjoying some outdoor baseball and a weekend out of town with my wife, dad, and sister.  Perhaps I am more aware of this given that I recently read Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki, but it seems like everybody in Kansas City is already practicing the art of enchanting customers.

The staff at The Hampton Inn has been fabulous, the service at a nearby restaurant called Tomfooleries was excellent (not to mention my new favorite, the peanut butter bacon burger), and even the clerk at a CVS near the airport seemed to be among the friendliest drug store employees I have ever encountered.

Above all, thought, I have found that the Kansas City Royals organization knows how to treat customers.

Every single person we have encountered from the staff at the Royals Hall of Fame and the concession workers to the usher tonight in section 419 have been incredibly friendly and helpful.  The usher tonight, for example, took time to tell us “we love when you guys from Minnesota come to town because you are such great fans” and he genuinely meant it.  I have never been told more than a couple words by an usher at Target Field so this is not the treatment I expected as a fan of the visiting team.  Except for one clown who had consumed too many beers prior to the first pitch, this has been how we have been treated all weekend in Kansas City by Royals fans, hotel and restaurant staff, and the Royals employees at the ballpark.

The most incredible example of going beyond expectations, though, has to be how we were treated when it turned out that I had mistakenly purchased tickets to the June 4th game instead of for tonight’s game.  Arriving at the stadium gate, the scanner being used by the “ticket taker,” for lack of a better term, beeped loudly and only upon inspection of the paper ticket did we find out that when I had purchased tickets back in March I had bought April 29th, May 1st, and June 4th (supposed to be April 30th).  Coincidentally the Twins are back in town in early June so I obviously chose the wrong Saturday when I was buying the tickets online.

We were directed to a nearby ticket window where I fully expected to pay full price for 4 tickets for tonight’s game given that I was holding tickets for a game 5 weeks from now.  I’m quite sure that at any other professional stadium in America that is how the situation would have been handled.  But not at Kauffman Stadium (which is a great place to watch a game, by the way).

I explained my plight to the gentleman behind the glass and he quickly assured me that he could take care of me by exchanging my tickets for the game that was now starting in under an hour.  I was surprised that it was even an option but he cheerfully tapped away on the computer until he found us seats only one section away from where I thought we had purchased seats in the first place.  At one point he even said “I have 4 seats here but they aren’t very good so I’m going to find you some better ones.”  Wow!!  What amazing service!  His computer was slow and he was very apologetic, even though he was doing me a huge favor.  To top it off, this all happened while I stood there in a Twins jersey and my similarly adorned family stood nearby so it was clear that we were from out of town and were not there to support the local team.  Upon completing the transaction I was told to “enjoy the game” a phrase I heard repeatedly from Royals employees including those at the entrance to the parking lot and we were sent on our way with a cheery smile.  The service was so great that my wife actually went to the ticket window after I left and thanked the employee as well.

We ended up with great seats in section 419 and I was even given a $16 refund because the June game was a Premium Game and tonight’s was not.  Most importantly, though, I saw and felt what can happen when a customer is truly enchanted and the Royals will be the team I cheer for except when they are playing the Twins.  My thanks to the employees of the Kansas City Royals organization and complements to the management for hiring and training such awesome people.  Now if only the Twins could win the final game of the series before we have to head back home!