I waited patiently for one of the three bartenders to approach me and take my order, a 20 dollar bill in hand, which is the universal signal for, I am ready to be waited on. I watched as the 3 bartenders walked past me multiple times without acknowledging my presence. Five minutes went by without anyone behind the bar even looking in my direction. As a former bar owner and someone that teaches and preaches about customer service, I was getting rather annoyed at the lack of service. As I was just about to leave out of frustration, the guy at the stool next to me informed me of rules. “You have to order your drink with the tablet; all they do (referring to the bartenders) is deliver drinks.” Now I am all for technology, but I wasn’t going to be forced to use it, after all I’m the customer and this is America.
I called to one of the bartenders… my mistake… “drink deliverers” to let them know that I just wanted a quick beer and asked politely if they could grab me one. “No, you have to order through the tablet” was the precise and concise response. “I have to” I thought to myself. What happened to customer service? Her quick glance at my 20 dollar bill triggered her second comment, “And they don’t take cash.” As she went back to delivering drinks, I let my predicament sink in. I have to order through the tablet and they don’t accept cash. From one perspective I get it; no wrong orders, no cash means no theft, no counting money, etc. From the customer service perspective I thought, what about travelers that are not “tablet savvy” or the ones that just don’t have a credit card and only use cash? Thinking even deeper I flashed back to one of my favorite television shows, Cheers. How long would the show have lasted if Sam, Coach, Woody or Carla were all replaced by tablets and they just delivered drinks? The whole point of a bartender is not to just pour and deliver drinks, it’s to interact with the customer, getting them talking about their troubles and their triumphs. It’s about making them feel special and knowing that they will stay and order another drink. It’s about having INTERACTIONS and CONVERSATIONS with the patrons. This is also very true about sales people in any organization. It’s the customer experience that gets people to buy and keeps them coming back.
Stuart & Associates was recently brought in by a national retailer to help them with their rollout of using tablets in their organization on the sales floor. They had given the sales people tablets and told them that they needed to use them with a large percentage of the customer transactions. They gave a goal of how many transactions should be processed each day with the devices and that it would be tracked. A 30 year veteran of that organization told me he was resigning because he was not going to be forced to use this new technology. Some people just don’t like new technology or change. It takes them out of their comfort zone. This is especially true when the people being asked to use the technology, haven’t been shown or received any explanation of how it would enhance and make their job easier. The initial introduction should have spent the time explaining how it’s going to improve the customer experience and allow the sales people ways of offering their customers more choices. We did extensive interviews with the salesforce which clearly identified this flaw in communication. Once we demonstrated to the sales team how the salesperson’s and the customer’s experience was enhanced by the use of this technology, it was quickly adapted by the bulk of the sales force. Not only that, but once we had a discussion around the fact that customer’s buying habits have changed, including customers using technology to do product research and shopping; the sales people embraced (Ok, some reluctantly) the change. When technology can enhance both the organization and the customer experience, I’m all in.
Now back to the bar. The use of the technology seemed one- sided and short- sighted to me. Sure the bartenders don’t have to talk to the customers and there is little room for shrink or theft, but what about the customer experience? Is it really being enhanced in this case? In my opinion, no. I enjoy the interaction between a good bartender and servers just like I enjoy a good sales interaction. To me the interactions of employees and customers define the service of an organization. If this is going to be the future of customer service in a bar, maybe they should at least get all the tablets to yell “Norm” when someone walks in. After all, as the song goes, “you wanna go where everybody knows your name.”