How Schnitzel Might Be Affecting Your Customer Satisfaction

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Making Feedback Easy For Customers: How Your Business Could be Sabotaging Itself, and What Charlie Sheen & Schnitzel Might Have to do With it

Since moving from America to Germany, I’ve been subjected to multiple language barriers, confusing differences in conversational hand gestures, and one very intense case of culture shock. Different countries, different customs, I guess. That being said, Germany is one of the most Americanized countries in Europe. Take American TV series like How I Met Your Mother or Two and a Half Men, for example. Although popular in their country of origin, most Americans tend to find a more specific genre niche that fits their individual personalities much better. Here, people would be rioting on the streets if they didn’t get their daily dose of slapstick sitcom. They shows are quickly (and sometimes sloppily) translated and dubbed over by the same 12 speakers to avoid long waits between release dates.

I can’t even begin to explain how many times I’ve seen the first episode of Scrubs on German television. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got nothing but love for the discontinued doctor comedy and snicker at my own ability to remember random parts of reruns, but multiple times a week is just too much.

Lucky for me, I’ve had time to familiarize myself with the language, people, festivities, and old-world charm during the 9 years in which I’ve been living here, which gives me the option of doing other things besides complaining about how often old episodes of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction are shown here over and over again. You would think that you would learn just about as much as you’re going to within 9 years; that you’re already so Germanized by then that you suddenly start calling soccer ‘football’ and catch yourself exclaiming ‘genau!’ instead of ‘exactly!’ when someone near you expresses their love for schnitzel and fresh-baked pretzels. However, there are still a few things that catch me off guard from time to time and, oddly enough, schnitzel sounds like a great place to start.

Excellent Customer Service is Imperative at Every Touch Point, Especially Delivery Hotlines

Seeing as everyone who is not an alien or a vegetarian could live off of schnitzel for the rest of their lives, I decided to order some from a popular delivery service specialized in the golden goodness of schnitzel just a few nights ago. I had just gotten back from a wonderful trip to Stockholm (one of many European ventures I was fortunate enough to make over the years) and felt drained from my recent day of traveling. So instead of scouring my “Kühlschrank,” which literally translates to cold closet but is also known as refrigerator, for something edible, I looked up the schnitzel delivery service’s website, made my order online, and waited for the customary call 10-15 minutes later to let me know that they received my wish list (because schnitzel time feels like Christmas time). As a frequent customer, I am fully aware that they always take a while to deliver, but since the food is always worth the wait, I tend to let it slide and order there anyway.

This time was no different. After letting me know that it would take them about an hour to get my order delivered, I heard the person on the other end of the phone suddenly laugh. Apparently I had skipped a row when filling out the delivery form, meaning that all of my address information was offset by one row. Even though I didn’t fully understand what was that hilarious about the street name being in the row for the zip code, I still apologized. She snarkily replied, “It would be great if you could do it right the next time. Now I have to manually re-enter your address information.” Ouch!

After an hour and 45 minutes, which I felt was a generous amount of time on top of the announced 1-hour wait, I picked up my phone and dialed their number. After listening to a surprisingly aggravating busy tone for another 10 minutes (there have been rumors that they take the phone off the hook when they don’t feel like answering), I reached the person who took my order almost two hours ago. She had obviously already fallen out of my good graces after scoffing at my delivery form faux-pas, but I still wasn’t ready for what happened next.

“The driver should be there any minute!” She exclaimed. Admittedly, I was somewhat annoyed with the long wait and this person in general, but I still politely replied with a simple: “Alright, thanks for the update.” A quick goodbye followed, but she was determined to have the last word. As I was lowering the phone from my ear, I faintly heard her voice say, “I already told you it would take over an hour. I don’t understand why you felt the need to call again.” She then proceeded to hang up, intent on having the last word.

Making it Easier for Customers to Submit Much-Needed Feedback

And then the doorbell rang. It was the schnitzel guy who actually did arrive within a matter of minutes. Taking a grown man in red overalls (their staple uniform) seriously is never an easy task, but I somehow managed to keep a straight face and began to describe my experience: “Look, the wait wasn’t that bad, but what’s going on with the person answering the phones?” He smirked, rolled his eyes, and explained, “Man, this is the third complaint I’ve gotten today. She even managed to forget multiple orders, which is why the wait was so long. She’s new, but this isn’t acceptable.” He handed me my schnitzel, apologized again on her behalf, money was exchanged, and he handed me my receipt.

Could you do all of us a favor and send in a complaint to the email address listed on the bottom of the receipt? It’s the boss’ email, and I’m sure if the complaint came straight from a customer, he’d be much more inclined to do something about it.” I glanced down at the receipt, then back up at him, and said, “I will. Thanks for pointing that out to me.” Now that even the delivery guy had acknowledged the problem, I felt like I could change the world with my voice. I was going to write an email right away! Or well, maybe right after I was done eating because it smelled so good. But then – surprise surprise – after I was done eating, the tiredness from that long day of traveling kicked back in, so I told myself I would write them tomorrow first thing after work. But after the long day at work that followed, my initial complaint had already faded into a faint memory of some unparticular wrongdoing. And  binge watching Orphan Black seemed much more important to me at the time anyway. Sorry, Two and a Half Men.

Then I started writing this blog article about them.

I still haven’t written that email, and I’m sure I never will.

Expecting your customers to take time out of their (more or less) busy day to write you an email is self-sabotage. You will rarely ever hear from them, ruining your chance of obtaining an unbiased, external view of your company’s performance. Emails are kind of scary, imply lots of work, and require self-initiative and full sentences. If you really want valuable information about your business, and trust me, you do: ditch the email approach and start making things easy for your customers. Don’t force them to explain themselves, ask them questions. Give them a QR code to scan instead of an email to write. Help them help you!

To come full circle on this story: there are still some things that shock me about the customer service here in Europe. The majority doesn’t seem to mind if you fuss at them and certainly doesn’t feel obligated to accommodate every customer’s special request or excuse a seemingly small mistake. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every service experience, but it’s always shocking when it does. And even when the end result is so rewarding like a savory schnitzel in this case, a bad experience can still leave customers with a nasty aftertase in their mouths. 

Connect with the author, Robyn Mize.

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