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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

When you go into an establishment, a familiar one, does everybody know your name?

I would be upset if I were to go into a restaurant or bar and have everyone call me Norm, but I also imagine that Norm felt very appreciated at Cheers. He had his place. His hangout. He had his peeps.

For quite a while (a couple of years, easily), I had been making regular visits to a McDonald's across a busy highway from where I work. I mention the highway because in my earlier days for hoofing it to Mickey's, there were no stoplights, no established pathways for pedestrians. If I was on a mission on a particular day, I would be in "look left, look right, bolt!" mode. It was a great day when traffic signals were installed at the intersection and pedestrian lines painted on the highway. I could get to Mickey's a bit more safely.

The other factor that comes into play is my great friend, Paul. Paul is a child psychiatrist and on the sweltering days of summer he enjoyed getting iced coffee from McDonald's. I had never been a coffee drinker. Never had more than a cup or two of hot Joe ever. And when I had, it was liberally dumped with sugar and cream. And while I have always liked iced tea, I thought iced coffee was some kind of abomination.

But on the day in question, Paul had this glorious iced coffee on his desk. It just looked delicious. Within a few minutes I was across the street and had one of my own. I learned that I could enjoy sugar free vanilla iced coffee and the number of Splenda packets it takes to make it taste perfect.

I started going to Mickey's every work day morning. Later, I added an afternoon walk to get an additional treat. Now, most days, I have two glasses of iced coffee, and I really enjoy them.

One day when I was standing in line, I saw that the same young woman would be waiting on me who almost always takes my order. I stepped up to her, she asked how she could help me, and I began to channel Norm.

As gently as possible, I said, "I come here almost every day and every day I order the same thing. Maybe you can tell ME what it is that I would like."

The young woman puzzled over this and we looked at each other. I certainly recognized her. And my comment appeared to have awakened her.

"Iced coffee, right?"

"Yes, but what kind?"

It took another minute, but we landed on the correct flavor. I thanked her by name, at least the one that was on her name tag.

The next day, the same worker cheerily told me what my order would be. Correctly. She was beaming.

"Now, THAT," I said, "is great customer service."

I was mistaken. A day or two later she saw me walking across the pedestrian walkway on my way to the restaurant. This time, the iced coffee was already made and waiting for me at the register.

Since that time, at least two other workers and assistant managers and now even the manager recognize me and there is a flurry of activity when I walk into the place. I seldom get to order a sugar free vanilla iced coffee any more. It is almost always made before I get to say a word. I speak to these workers by name and always get huge smiles. I thank them for their efforts and have written at least two email messages to corporate McDonald's about their amazing service and what it feels like to be recognized and treated as a regular customer. I know that this reinforcement has been shared with these employees, because I have asked about it. And the assistant manager has told me more than once that no one leaves positive messages. The only thing they hear about is complaints.

At my local McDonald's, I am Norm. I am a regular. I know the names of many people behind the counter. And when I am waiting on rare occasions, there is talk about things that have no connection to restaurants. We just talk like people. Go figure. And when I have the opportunity, I try and let people know that they are doing a good job, and I let their bosses know, too. People enjoy hearing such good news! Reinforcement helps!

I love that iced coffee. And I love when I am recognized as a regular customer, even if nobody knows my name.


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