Monday, September 23, 2013

A Tale of Customer Experience and Exact Change

Recently, I visited a neighborhood restaurant and placed a take-out order. Easy transaction, you might think, but you’d be wrong. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. With no manager in sight, I decided that a blog post with a copy to the company’s CEO would be my only recourse.

As we all know, the casual dining space is very crowded. While more upscale than fast-food options, such as, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Pollo Loco, there are restaurants that claim they provide a quality customer experience. While these restaurants don’t have white tablecloths, 14 karat gold utensils, or waiters in tuxedos, they offer more than the cookie-cutter McDonald’s menu. At the casual dining restaurants, you place your order by reading a large menu on the wall, pay for your meal, and then find a table. Your food is delivered to your table – often with a smile and a request to bring anything else you might want or need.

Now back to my recent experience: after I placed my order and paid, the employee gave me my change. I immediately noticed an error and asked for the correct change. The employee looked at me and was clearly annoyed. He said, “No one has ever asked for exact change before.”

In the words of Annette Franz Gleneicki, Voice of the Customer expert (@CXJourney on Twitter) and fellow positive customer experience advocate, “Regardless of whether it’s one cent or one dollar, it’s not up to the employee to decide whether you get change or not. Maybe some people don’t care about a penny or small amounts of change, but it’s the principle. Employees should never assume anything about the customer. For that matter, companies in general should never assume they know (anything about) their customers. They should ask AND they should listen.”

According to Anna Papachristos of 1to1 Media (@AP1to1 on Twitter), “To gain the advantage in today’s competitive market, brands must work to understand the customer experience.”

Here’s proof that this restaurant’s employee did not understand the customer experience:
[1] The time of the transaction was 7pm, and the restaurant closed at 8pm. If someone had already emptied the registers, and there was no cash to make change, then employees should have alerted customers at the beginning of any orders taken after 7pm.
[2] If the employee did not have sufficient cash in his register to complete my transaction, he should have explained the situation and asked another employee to share cash from another register.
[3] If the employee did not count the change correctly, he should have apologized and rectified the situation by providing the additional change.
[4] Under no circumstances should the employee have become noticeably annoyed because a customer requested correct change
[5] A customer should never be put in a situation where he has to request change that is rightfully his.

According to Gary Edwards, the Chief Customer Officer of Empathica (@DoctorGE on Twitter), “By understanding the customer journey, brands can quickly identify where they are failing to meet or exceed customer expectations, as well as help identify the key drivers of loyalty on which to focus, ways to change staff behavior, and how to leverage brand advocates when working towards improving overall experience.”

Where was the employee training in this restaurant? Where was the attention to customer service? And where was the attention to the customer experience? This will not come as a surprise, but I will not be returning to this restaurant.

Can you guess the restaurant? Share your guess in the comments section.

Image Credit: Gualberto107 via


  1. Thanks for sharing this experience Debbie! It's always good to have real life cases. We can relate to those, and I certainly did with this one. It would be great to get a follow-up on whether the company replied and how!

  2. Not only is this a well-written post, but I love the topic. Really trustworthy blog. Thanks for sharing !


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