How important is customer service? My experience at Valvoline

Excellent customer service, whether online or in person, makes or breaks a business. We’re not in a Seinfeld-esque world where people will tolerate “Soup-Nazi” style service, instead, we’re living in a time where EVERYONE can have a voice. Businesses that focus on providing kick-ass service online and offline will make it through and flourish.

Too many people misunderstand the importance of what social media is and what it’s capable of achieving. Many of my friends perceive my infatuation with social networks as worthless and assume that it’s a fetish comparable to being an adamant sports fan. Understanding social media is further convoluted by those that staunchly believe that they have never and will never buy anything on Facebook, from Pinterest, or as a result of someone’s tweet on Twitter. At least once over the next year, I guarantee that you’ll make a purchase (or not make one) that was influenced by social media.

Last Monday, in recognition of my favorite president, Grover Cleveland, I celebrated Presidents’ Day by purchasing an oil change. A few days prior, I had received a coupon in the mail for a discount off of my next oil change, and, as a person fixated on getting the most bang for my buck, I brought along the $10 discount coupon for my premium oil change. I’ve been getting my oil change at Valvoline and expected the traditional “upselling” and subpar service that often accompanies a trip to a car mechanic.

I wasn’t disappointed as I received both terrible service and an inquiry on the condition of my car. I didn’t mind the “upsell” as the gentleman was very nice while asking about my sparkplugs. What did bother me, and what will keep me from going to a Valvoline again, was a combination of bad customer service throughout my stay.

Before proceeding, let me clear up one thing. I rarely write reviews as I often empathize with customer service workers dealing with disgruntled customers.

My day at Valvoline starts …

  1. I drove to the Valvoline Instant Oil Change, walked inside, and was told to move my car up to the garage door and park it next in line.
  2.  Once I walked back inside, no one is at the counter.
  3. The line behind me gets longer. Seven minutes pass and no service.
  4. The clerk takes my keys after I tell her i’m looking for a high mileage – premium change. She doesn’t thank me but moves on to those next in line looking for an oil change by asking “who else needs a change?”.
  5. After my oil change, the clerk calls “Honda Accord”. That’s not my name.
  6. She starts to ring me out, but calls me by my first name, Andrew. Somehow she actually knew my name.
  7. She rings me up after I give her my $10 off coupon. She puts it in as $6 off. I nicely point out the error and she explains that the $10 off is for a tire rotation. I mention that i’m from out of state and that the coupon does say $10 off a premium change.
  8. She goes out and speaks to her manager to ask if this is okay She comes back in, attempts to input the $10 off, it fails. She goes back to her manager and he comes in as well. They explain to me that because my discount is out of state, they won’t honor it, but will give me the $6 discount.
  9. They don’t place the oil sticker on my car, rather, they hand it to me.

There are many reasons why my experience could have been so sub-par. Perhaps the clerk felt under the weather or was having a bad day. Maybe they were completely understaffed and trying to do the best job possible. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Whatever the reason, people that go to the Internet and social media to write about their bad experience are impacting future sales for the business. If I raved about Valvoline, I might tell all my friends. If I had an awful experience, I might swear off of Valvoline Instant Oil Change forever. And, worst of all…

I could go on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp etc. and explain my situation while pushing it to my six-thousand+ contacts. In this situation, unless Valvoline Instant Oil Change is watching social media, they won’t realize my dissatisfaction with their service or what I would be saying about this brand.

Why does this matter? Let’s say I convince three current Valvoline customers to never go there again because of a bad customer service experience and they can identify with me, that $4 compounds into much more. Considering people like to frequent the same mechanics and auto body shops, this adds up. Now, maybe each of these three people convince another three…

Sure, a large business, such as Valvoline, won’t be greatly impacted. But what if this was a small restaurant or business?

And what can Valvoline do to change? The easiest fix is to monitor social media channels, take me offline, and remedy the problem. Perhaps then I will give them an excellent online customer service review for their handling of the situation. Obviously, they could also change their store customer service, but having a brand notice the problem is enough to hopefully start making a change.

That’s great, but won’t people just abuse this? They haven’t yet, why would they try? It can be embarrassing for someone to spout off about a business, have the business remedy the problem, and continue doing it. This is why people mock others behind their backs but won’t say anything face-to-face.

Is social media powerful? Absolutely. Can your small, mid-sized, or large business afford to avoid what’s being said about them online? Do you ever share your less than positive customer service experiences on your social channels?

Restaurants and Tablets: A Trend to Watch

Social media and mobile is changing the traditional marketing game for all businesses, restaurants included. But what’s the next trend that you should jump on the bandwagon for? Prediction: Restaurants that use tablets for dining will be killing it (USA Today article on iPads at restaurants) Scroll down to find out why or view this video from USA Today

USA Today Tablet Restaurants

Tablets (iPad, Xoom, Kindle Fire etc.) allow for users to…

The Eating

Order drinks

What if I could request my martini shaken, not stirred? Or what if your waitress can’t remember your list of single-malt scotches? Think an interactive drink menu where I can specialize how I want my drink by dragging and dropping. Interested in the amount of calories? Find that out as well. Do you need a refill on water, hit that button as well.

Order Meals

I hate it when a waitress asks me to repeat my order because she didn’t write it down. Or worse, the wrong meal is brought over. Having my order sent to the kitchen remedies this problem.

Order from the Dessert Menu

There should be no more waiting 20 minutes to receive a Dessert Menu because my waiter is too busy. Instead, I should be able to put my order in and receive the molten volcano cholesterol plate within two minutes

Request Assistance

Maybe someone at the table has a birthday party and we can’t slip away to tell the server. What if we could send a message saying that Kristen in the red is turning 30? Or maybe we spilled (hopefully not on the tablet) and we need some paper towels.

The Technical

Log In

Do you come by the restaurant a lot? Maybe you would like to order something the way you had it last time, or five times ago. By logging in and creating a user name, you can track your favorites and rate the meals. Maybe return customers receive a discount. Maybe you can provide advice for future users. Or a business can direct you to a plate you may like. Check on gift certificate balances or order one for others.

Rate a Dish

Maybe there was too much garlic. Why not allow for your customers to rate their meal and comment on what is good and bad? The only way to make a dining experience better is to hear from your customers.

Connect Online and Rate

Provide links to Yelp, Facebook and Twitter to allow for customers to rate and discuss your food. Plus, this is an easy way to get some new “friends” or “likes”.

Pay the Bill

Everything is going mobile these days. How about being able to pay my bill without needing to ask for it? I can swipe my card and sign on the screen. For large tables, people can break up who buys what (and the tip is right there on the screen!). There is no more “I paid $5 more than him, but he ordered more”.

Use Cash

Hit a button requesting change. Since they will not be swiping your card, change will be much easier to get.

Damage Control:

Keep Their Kids Busy

What is more annoying than children asking “Mom, can we leave yet?” What if you could keep them entertained with a tablet and headphones so they can watch their favorite kid oriented material? Plus, other customers won’t give you and your children the evil eye (or maybe you need to send an email).  

Speak to the Manager

We all occasionally get so upset with our service or food that we think paying should not be an option. Maybe our well-done steak was too cooked or there is actual hair in our angel hair pasta. Regardless, we are going to tell the world how upset we are.  Instead of attacking a waiter/waitress, why not allow for the manager to help quell tensions and save a relationship with a customer? In the long term, providing a free meal is worth it more than allowing a customer to storm out and broadcast their disgust with the business