Pride – A Cautionary Tale

Competition can be a little unnerving sometimes.  I happen to be one of those annoying people who will persistently contend that it is good for us, but I will never say it is easy on the pride.  Having competition means that there is high demand for your product or service – bonus!  Competition also makes us better.  It makes us leaner, sharper, and in-tune with the needs of our customers – at least it will if you are legitimately and humbly competing for the business.  I had a disappointing experience today that provides a useful lesson in how pride can be poisonous to customer service.

I went to the new Luxury Galaxy Theatre in Sparks with some friends today (the theater was spectacular by the way!).  Before going in, we decided to get some coffee at this tiny little place in the mall where the theater was located.  Right away I wasn’t terribly impressed with the service because there was a long line with very little standing room and one person taking the orders, making the coffee, and being the cashier.  If this location was off the beaten path it would be one thing, but it happens to be within 60 walking seconds from the theater, so I daresay it was/is underprepared for the amount of weekend business coming its way.  The young lady working did not seem overwhelmed, nor was she in a hurry.  She unapologetically took her time as the line crept forward.  I’ve been in understaffed retail situations – I understand the difficulties – but I do expect acknowledgement, apology, and at least the appearance of swiftness.  Unfortunately, she dug the customer hole even deeper when it was finally our turn.

One of my friends made the ghastly and unspeakable mistake of forgetting she wasn’t at Starbucks and requested a “grande” (rather than a “medium”) latte!  As the person taking this order, there are a few different ways to handle this.  First, you could ignore the terminology and provide the customer with a medium drink.  Second, you could make a little quip out of it and lightheartedly mention that you’ll gladly make that medium latte.  Thirdly, you could let your pride intrude and become disrespectful.  Can you guess which one happened today?  Rudely, straight faced, and feigning confusion, the young lady said, “Sorry, I have no idea what a grande is.”  Somebody should give her a fire extinguisher for her pants!

It was a shameless, passive-aggressive attempt to put my friend in her place for using the terminology of a competitor by mistake.  I believe she is simply young and inexperienced.  I don’t think she made a conscious effort to be rude, but she hasn’t learned the important lesson of swallowing her pride just yet.  She is proud of the establishment she works for, yet doesn’t yet grasp the fact that its success is dependent on the repeat business of customers who don’t choose one of the two competitors within 0.5 miles of her shop.

Having pride in what you do is a great thing; preventing it from being your Achilles heel is the challenge.  Teach your people to take the high road when something like this happens.  Teach them to use it as an opportunity to show the customer you’re better than the 800 pound gorilla you’re competing with; differentiate yourself!  Give the customer a reason to accidentally order a “medium” at Starbucks!  You might be surprised at how often something like this can happen right under your nose.  Has anyone had an experience like this?


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