Customer Service Nightmares & the Burger King Blunder

By: SCMikeBurton

By: SCMikeBurton

It was on a trip through Scranton, PA that we stopped at a Burger King for a quick bite. 
At first my mom said she wanted only a cup of coffee.  I replied, a coffee for you and a fish sandwich for me.  She said, “Oh well, get me a fish sandwich as well — it will be hours before we eat again. But I just want fish, lettuce, and tomato on the bun.”  She then went to grab a table because the lunch crowd was forming. 

I approached the counter to order two fish sandwiches and one cup of coffee.   The Burger King sales associate called me forward and I said:  “Hi, I would like two fish sandwiches. One with lettuce and tomato and one with lettuce, tomato, and sauce.  Also one cup of coffee.”   The sales associate stared back at me and said with a bit of panic in her voice — “What do you want me to hold?”  I didn’t know what to say.  So of course I just started over and spoke more slowly.  She continued to ask me “but what do you want me to hold?” 

Suddenly the manager came over and asked me what I wanted to order.  I repeated “Two fish sandwiches — one with lettuce and tomato and one with lettuce, tomato, and sauce.”  He looked at me and said “Ma’am, we’ll be very happy to help you when we can figure out what you want to order.”  Huh? 

Exasperated that I was stuck in a scripted loop,  I simply replied “I’ll take two fish sandwiches and one cup of coffee please.”  He started again saying they would be very happy to help me when they could figure out what I wanted.  I replied, “You will make me happy if you just give me two fish sandwiches and one coffee.”  I paid, picked up the tray with the fish sandwiches and the coffee, and went to find Mom.

When I reached the table where she was sitting, she said “Wow that was quite a wait.  Long lines?”  I said, “Nope”.  “Well what happened?”, she asked.  I said, “You won’t believe it. In order to get food here, first you have to know how they make it so you can tell them what to subtract.”  She stared at me in disbelief.  I then told her the whole story.  Her reaction was, “Let me in there. I could make 20 special ordered fish sandwiches in that amount of time.”  And well she could!

How many times have you been stuck in a scripted customer service nightmare on the phone?   No matter what you say, the rep continues on a journey without you onboard.  This isn’t just customer service gone bad it is customer service designed badly.   Let’s use some basic logic.  How many customers will know that what you have said to them, you have consistently said to the previous customer?  More importantly, how many customers will care?  Most people want to be treated as if they are special — not as if they are routine.

Yet scripts are designed to do two things: Deliver consistent service and move on to the next customer.  With a chuckle in my voice I say, they sure do that!  It is consistently bad service that pushes customers away from you and toward your competition

Scripts create this nightmare because A) They don’t account for the customer’s journey and B) The customers didn’t come to your script rehearsal!  Scripts breed non-listening, non-thinking, robotic reps who replace thinking with reciting and a caring heart with a bar chart on numbers served.

Wouldn’t it be better to use great listening to understand what the customers want?   Replace scripts with ACE – Authenticity, Commitment, & Ease  ACE your next customer service and sales moment and watch your customer referrals and sales soar!

14 Responses to “Customer Service Nightmares & the Burger King Blunder”

  1. Dan de la Cruz, CMA, CPA says:

    “It’s not on the menu so you can’t have it.” This is what we have created, a “robotic” workforce, not programmed to change on the fly!
    Dan de la Cruz, CMA, CPA

  2. Gary says:

    Apparently, the days of “Have It Your Way” are long gone. Not only is it a sad place when you have to know how they make their product to know what to subtract~ but it is a shame that no one at BK could think beyond the script and know what is on the sandwich and figure it out for themselves. Robots are invading every part of our lives, either by systems or people with no drive to be better and go the extra mile. Those who do not think ‘it’s not my job’ will no longer have jobs because the companies that encourage the mind numbing, do not think approach will become extinct. The rules of customer service & sales have changed. Companies must adapt to engaging & actually serving their customers or they will find other firms that will and choose to spend their money there.

    Bad week for BK, first refusing service to a MO. woman who’s baby did not have shoes and now living robots in PA.

  3. That’s one reason why I am against scripts for a Help Desk. It can only get you so far! Also scary when you have someone in a “sales” position that doesn’t know their product either. How can you be effective when you don’t know what it is you are selling.

  4. Good points Kate. Your story reminds me of the time when McDonald’s had a slogan “we do it all for you” and I asked the woman at the drive through window if she could put two cream and one sugar in my coffee and give it a stir as it was hard to do while driving. She said they were not allowed to do that. I reminded her of the slogan and she said “That’s just a saying.”

  5. Paul Castain says:

    Fantastic post Kate!
    Shame on whoever trained them on the script for not showing them how to improvise 🙂

    Paul Castain

  6. Jeff Scott says:

    The Food Industry is tough especially in the Fast Food sector. Low pay for low skill and typically a young workforce that has a low “care” factor. It’s not an excuse; it’s a reason to try even harder. ?
    Every customer interaction is an opportunity. An opportunity to leave a lasting impression that is positive, negative, mediocre or outstanding. Over the past few months I have had several interactions with USAA who has impressed me to the point that I talk about them to my colleagues and friends. They are a great company to model your Customer Service after. Watch the little video on their site.

  7. Sarah says:

    How can a fast food place have a script? You are interacting with a live person!!

  8. Joe Williams says:

    We encounter scripts everywhere. In this case, you “cracked the code” of the script – that is, to know how they make it so that you can subtract. In other cases, the code is different. Yet customer service is not intended to be a code-cracking game. It is to deliver quality and ensure the customer walks away satisfied.

  9. Kate Nasser says:

    Thank you for your comments thus far. Joe — I love your “Customer service is not intended to be a code-cracking game.” Bravo!
    Kate, The People-Skills Coach

  10. Roy Atkinson says:

    Great story, Kate! This episode points up what happens when the “script” is ill-considered in the first place, and depends on the customer to do the “tech support” (i.e., know the products, assist the salesperson) to get to the right outcome. Unfortunately, this is happening not just in fast food, but in many service and support companies. Thanks for telling this Winding Path story.

  11. David says:

    Next time, just tell them to make it plain and add lettuce, tomato, and sauce.

  12. Ken says:

    This seems like a one sided story. I have worked at Burger King and find it hard to believe a Manager couldn’t help you. It sounds like the problem was that you were not speaking so they could understand you. Originally you ordered the 2 fish sandwiches and a coffee. Then when the Manager came over you changed your order to only two fish sandwiches. What do you want me to hold is not a script. The correct script would be “Would you like fries with that?” and then “What size coffee would you like value size, small or medium?” Also if there was not a long line, the other customers must have had better service.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Ken,
      I told the truth in the story. The manager could not help me. It had nothing to do with coffee, length of line, or my communication. In customer service, the service provider bears the responsibility to understand what the customer wants. In this case, they expected me to know how they make things so I could tell them what to subtract. Not great service.

  13. Stephen says:

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Want proof? Next time you have a total between $5.01 and $6.00 give them (any fast food, gas station, convenient store, grocery store) a $10 and a $1 and watch their brains explode. I once parked in a garage that was $6 and the attendant didn’t have any singles (had a wad of fives and tens) and let me park for free because he couldn’t change the $10 and $1 I gave him.

    Everyone has “brain farts”, so to speak. This is different though. This is a generation (one that I’m included in) that is taught laziness from birth. Daycare’s and television (now the internet) do the raising. Schools have to teach to the lowest common denominator. Kids are not only allowed to use calculators at too early an age, but in some instances are required to use them (not talking calculus here). And yes, that is a generalization about today’s youth.

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