Thursday, September 10, 2015

Communication – The Teenage Years

I’m not sure what thoughts rest in your brain, simmering and sputtering and demanding your attention. Without you telling me I am lost in my own thoughts and in my own world. Communication connects us. It is the link that allows me to share your world and offer my world to you. Communication has grown with our culture. From simple gestures and sounds, words have evolved into complex languages. The nuances of words allow us to describe minute differences in concepts and perceptions.

These thoughts simmer in my brain. I think about how the growth of communication seems to be in its teenage years. I laugh and think about the preference of my teenage son’s communication. The silence with a look that he feels is sufficient to convey his point of view.  Communication seems to have gone through a growth spurt. Smart Phones, the internet with Facebook, Twitter, email and more have caused us to be awkward. We really don’t know how to use these muscles and we sometimes come across as angry, belligerent, complacent or just down right rude. We say things we would never say in person and most of all we seem to find it acceptable to simply ignore people if we so choose.  We screen our calls with an answering machine, make people go through myriads of phone directories just to leave a voice mail that is never listened to, use computer screening applications that weed out potential employees, or simply leave the communication up to a computer bot.

…So what has all this to do with food or customer service?

Well… I believe the quickest way between two points is not always a straight line. This is how my mind brought me to thinking about how companies use communication as part of their marketing programs. Have companies forgotten that everything we do should be part of our marketing?

My years of experience has shown me that sales can come from the most unusual source.  I’ve seen sales come from a hate comment left on our Facebook that we did not erase but simply responded to politely.  I have seen ex-employees become sales advocates even when they have moved away from the area.

I am not sure if companies have forgotten that the little things we do add up to big things or if they simply don’t think that there is a big enough return on investment. Have they forgotten that the most powerful voice in their company comes from their employees? Treating them right will make sure that they are part of creating sales. Have they forgotten that the customer that took the time to complain is on that razor edge of either being your competitor’s customer or a loyal customer for life? It all comes down to common sense. Treat everyone that comes in contact with your company with respect. Answer emails, answer the phone, respond to complaints, tell a prospective employee when they didn’t get the job, and communicate like you have grown past the age of a teenager.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Customer Service?

Kristi Gustafson Barlette writes an article that brings forth a lot of antagonism from her readers. Rightly so...

Situations like this makes me wonder. Does the owner of this salon really think like this? Do they really think that they are winning back an unhappy customer? I do realize that there are times when you cannot make a customer happy but to NEVER apologize is simply not very smart customer service. I think the owner was more concerned with justifying their procedures than they were with trying to understand what made the customer upset.

This reminds me of a time that my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary. We made reservations at a well know establishment in downtown Albany. We had never been there but we were excited because they had a reputation for being a fabulous place. We got dressed for the occasion and arrived a few minutes before our reservation time.

Although it was only early November there was snow and it was cold. We were wearing heavy coats over formal attire. Inside, the place was warm and alive. We were just brimming with happiness. The owner/hostess was on the phone and watched as we walked in. Instead of smiling and acknowledging us with any sort of gesture he turned his back on us and continued to talk on the phone.

I looked at my wife and she looked at me. Both of us a bit surprised but we continued to stand there... waiting. Every so often a waiter or waitress would push by us on their way to the kitchen. Never a hello. Never a welcome. Never a sorry but somebody will be right with you. We waited. The owner continued to talk on the phone. We waited and watched people eating. And we waited. Standing in an entrance way to the restaurant. Getting hot with winter coats. Unbuttoning them and wishing somebody would at least offer to hang them up for us. Instead we waited.

I am a patient man but after 20 minutes of waiting I was no longer patient.

We buttoned up our coats and walked out. Made it to our car as the owner came running out after us.
I rolled down my window to at least acknowledge him when nobody would acknowledge us. I expected and apology. Instead he was angry. Didn't I understand that he was on the phone with a customer and I shouldn't expect him to hang up on them to take care of me...

We made the exchange short and my wife and I went to Jack's Oyster House instead. I was still exasperated and explained my situation to the hostess there. Without a reservation they made room for us and seated us immediately as well as bought us an appetizer. Now there is exemplar customer service.

My story could have ended there but the owner of the other restaurant decided it was still necessary to call me at work the next day and continue with his tirade explaining how I was unreasonable. Never once apologizing. Never once trying to understand what I was so upset over. I could have explained that there were multiple ways that they could have shown that I was important. Simple acknowledgement with a gesture indication that he would be right with us. A short break from the phone conversation asking a waitress to seat us or at least take our coats...

The owner was more concerned about justifying his attitude than with trying to understand how to improve customer service. I'm not surprised that his restaurant closed forever a  few years later.

What is important to you when it comes to customer service?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mr. Subb brings Catering to you!

Feedback from our customers is a great tool. When somebody compliments us it is uplifting to find out what we do well. We certainly will continue to try to do those things. Although complaints sometimes hurt, we get to find out the things that need improvement. We certainly take notice and look at ways to fix those areas.

During our recent (current) campaign “Elect Mr. Subb your Subb Shop” we included a quick questionnaire. Besides the necessary customer data we asked:

  1. What subb/sandwich is your favorite from Mr. Subb?
  2. What location is your favorite Mr. Subb location?
  3. Did you know that Mr. Subb is a locally owned and operated company?
  4. Did you know that you can save 5% every time you order online?
  5. What can Mr. Subb do to serve you better?

As customers “voted” and answered our questionnaire we received a lot of compliments and a host of great suggestions. There were a few common themes. One was that it would be great if we delivered.

Guess what?

Mr. Subb now has a catering menu AND

 To make your party or meeting better Mr. Subb will bring food to you.

“Mr. Subb's catering includes FREE delivery and set up for orders of $150 or more.  (Must be within our normal delivery area).  Catering includes utensils, plates and napkins.  For smaller orders or for delivery out of our area there will be an extra charge for delivery.  (Delivery  charges are $15 and up)”

We try to listen to you. Send us your suggestions. For more information on catering visit our website at:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dirty Politics even in Subb Shop campaigns

Election time is filled with excitement centering around the promises of change and of better futures. What an opportunity to have a fun little promotion that is election themed and brings some excitement to our customers as well.

“Vote for Mr. Subb as your Subb Shop”.
Plus you get entered to win some fabulous prizes.

Politicians every term must face their constituents and re-apply for their position. New contenders are always out there with bigger and better promises and the voters have to decide which will provide the best service to them and their community. It all comes down to a vote on Election Day.

With some seriousness, Businesses do this too. Voting is not done at a polling place but by customers spending their hard earned dollars. Voting is done daily. Some new contenders come onto the market and some businesses find themselves voted out of their position. This promotion was meant not only to give some excitement to our customers but to remind everyone at Mr. Subb that we must seek the votes (sales) of our customers. We campaign (market) to our customers with campaign promises (marketing positions) and we must stand on our record (past performances) in delivering those campaign promises.

The promotion was simple. Place some yard signs among the politician signs asking our customers for votes, Include Webpage, Facebook, Twitter, In-Store POS and Email support telling our customers our campaign promises and having people vote online. The vote would have a brief survey that could help us determine what things customers liked and what we could do better.

Things started out great and signs were placed. I noticed some signs started disappearing. They were replaced. Was this a zoning issue? A competitor? Some kids wanting a souvenir? Part of campaigning I suppose but surprising. Mr. Subb has used these types of lawn signs before without having ANY disappear.

One of the signs was in Newton Plaza in Latham. We have a location in the plaza and the plaza never contacted us about any reason they would have removed it. We replaced it.

The night we replaced the sign, it disappeared again but this time there was a witness to the crime. I got a text from a friend who works at Computer Renaissance in the plaza.

“Hey just leaving the store and a guy pulled up and took the Mr Subb sign(voting one) that was by the plaza sign and put it in his trunk. My mom told me when I got in the car. Not sure if this means anything, Just wanted you to know”

I asked for a description and he responded;

“All she said was a dark car, white guy, looked like a white dress shirt. He opened trunk right when he got out of the car and out it in the trunk then left”

I’ve dealt with town zoning officers and they don’t work at 9pm at night. Plus in most cases they tell you about the sign and warn you that if you put it up again you’ll be fined. I don’t think this was any town official.

We have had to deal with kids too. The description doesn’t sound like it was a kid.

Makes me believe that we are dealing with our competition running a dirty campaign. Makes me wonder about their campaign promises. If they can steal I am sure that they can lie too.

Only two weeks into this “fun” campaign we have found that 40% of these campaign signs have been stolen. Some of these were placed directly in front of our stores.

Dirty Politics for sure.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wide Open Living

I am a people watcher. I eavesdrop and rudely pry myself into your life. You may not notice me but I am there. These days we need to live like the world sees everything that we do. Cameras in our cell phones and the Internet so wide open much of our lives are open for others to see.  I think this is a good thing. Maybe we’ll behave better. Maybe we’ll think before we say rude things to people. Sound bites and video clips following us like our shadows.

Last week I was grabbing a quick bite to eat in a fast food place. I had ordered my food and I was waiting for them to prepare it. A girl was sitting with her family at one of the tables in the dining room. I watched as she huffed out of her chair and came back to the service counter. She slammed down an item and pushed it part way across the counter exclaiming, “I said no lettuce…” as she did so.

There was nobody at the service counter but the Manager quickly came towards her. She continued her rant about specifically saying she had requested no lettuce and there was lettuce on it but no sour cream and other stuff.

The Manager started with a response about items coming standard unless specifically ordered otherwise. The girl did not want to hear this and looked at her family as yelled, “I told them no lettuce didn’t I?” They vigorously shook their heads and the Manager replied, “I didn’t hear you say that but I’ll make you a new one”

She was already in a fury and swore at him saying she didn’t want an efin new one she just won’t ever come back again.

I know the Manager didn’t handle it perfectly. There should have been an apology first and then an explanation. Maybe things would have worked out differently but the customer was rude and unreasonable too. She didn’t need to light up the store with threats and expletives. The situation was getting resolved. Why don’t we just give people a chance? Why don’t we just live like our lives are wide open for the world to see?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Faces of People

We can’t help ourselves. It is built into our DNA. We constantly judge people and make decisions about whom they are. But appearances can be deceiving.

Many years ago I was working at our location in Lansingburgh. I was a night shiftleader and worked as many hours as I could get scheduled. Friday and Saturday nights were long shifts because we closed at 5am. I liked those shifts because the hours added up so quickly. You also got to see all sorts of people. Many that you would only shake your head at and wonder. Some that you were glad that you were standing behind a 4 foot counter and did not run into on a dark street corner. There was one in particular that I remember. He was a big man. A biker. He belonged to the Hell’s Angels. He was quiet and had tattoos across his knuckles. On one hand it said, “HATE”. On the other hand it said, “LOVE”. It certainly got my attention and I knew that I didn’t want either stamped on me.

I worked with a young blond girl who got a lot of attention from the guys. She took it in stride and was able to make sure most of them behaved. One particular night I remember it started getting extremely loud in the store and I looked over and saw a couple of guys giving this young lady a hard time. She was getting flustered and as I finished up with the customer I was waiting on I turned to go help her. Before I could take a step I saw our Hell’s Angel’s friend quietly step behind these guys, grab a hold of their shirts behind their necks and lift them both off the floor. It got really quiet.

In a gentle voice he as he turned both of them to look at him he said,

“Gentlemen. I would suggest you treat this lady with a bit of respect”

He gently set them back on the floor and they immediately apologized to my co-worker.

I am a believer that people are genuinely good. Take a moment to see the real person before you judge them by their appearance.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I can’t believe it happened to me.

I can’t believe it happened to me.

A good mood, good intentions and the right timing bring me to a place that I rarely visit. A bit of a splurge but I could really use a lift. It’s a high-end grocery chain and the food they sell is representative of the best that nature and man have to offer to nurture our body. Pricey and although money is tight sometimes we just need something different. I wander around to the pre-made sandwiches and although pickings are slim because it is towards the end of the day I settle on a turkey sandwich. They make them dry and let you choose dressing from packets in a basket. I look around and don’t see any dressings. I stopped because I wanted to eat on the run and not an hour later when I got home. The sandwich case is attached to their deli so I wander around the corner and catch the eye of what looks like the deli manager but he scurries away leaving me to wait patiently as the deli attendant waits on a lady in front of me. I shrug my shoulders and blame myself. I was probably too tentative with my body language.

The customer was getting sliced turkey and as the attendant piles it on the scale it reaches .87 of a pound. She exclaims, “that’s fine” but the attendant oblivious to her comment turns his back and proceeds to slice more turkey until the scale registers over the pound that I am sure that the customer had requested. He wraps up the turkey slapping the price tag on the package and then blurts out, “Will there be anything else?”

The customer says, “Well I needed some cheese… but”

Her head turns and looks at me when she reaches that pivotal phrase and she gives her head a bit of a shake from left to right.

“No thanks…”

Her words trail off as she struggles to find the right words. Instead she simply turns and leaves with her turkey.

Unfazed by the exchange the attendant looks at me with a blank look in his eye. I swear his left eye trails off in search of a clock that I could not detect. The high counter seems to give the attendant additional stature and I feel I need to raise the sandwich I was holding head high to show him and exclaim,

“I don’t see any dressings for the sandwiches”

“We’re out!”

Those piercing words struck me by surprise. Out of mayonnaise possibly but out of ALL dressings?

“You don’t have ANY dressings?”


And as simply as that I was dismissed. The attendant turns and addresses the slicer that he had been using to serve the last customer.

I would have loved to see my face. What kind of look did I have? Perplexed? Angry? Shocked?
Whatever the emotion that was pulsing through my veins I was done. I was done trying to spend money that I really shouldn’t have in the first place. I was done with my good mood.  I was done trying to grasp any understanding about how a grocery store did not have ANY dressings in their hundreds of thousands of items that they stock. Couldn’t they have offered to open a small jar from their retail? Couldn’t they have apologized? Couldn’t they… I was done with wondering why people were oblivious to customers that were clearly upset in their store. I stormed past a half dozen employees, all who simply got out of my way. Worst of all is that this company will never know why I don’t return to spend my money with them. They will never know that I am gone. They’ll go on doing what they are doing.

…The thing is that stuff happens. It happens to you and it happens to me. Customers have a right to be noticed.  Customers have the right to be treated with respect.

We make our fair share of mistakes at Mr. Subb too. It’s natural because we are all human. Maybe we make a sandwich wrong. Maybe we are out of a product. Maybe we have our minds on something else and don’t listen closely enough to what you are saying. It’s how we respond to these circumstances that make the difference. I’d like to think that most of Mr. Subb employees care and will try to make things right for you. I fear that there are some that don’t. What bothers me the most is that I suspect customers are like me. They can’t believe what happened to them and instead of letting the company know they simply don’t come back.

If you have a bad experience some place try to do the right thing and let them know. It’s the only way we’ll change. Have a great experience? Everyone loves compliments, At Mr. Subb both good and bad comments are passed along to the location. Come on… Speak your mind.