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Saturday, December 09, 2006
Interesting Hagen-Daaz experience

I met up with one of my best friends today to do some final shopping before I will be on the plane back to Seattle.

After we've done most of the shopping, we settled down into one of the Hagen-Daaz branches in Raffles City, and ordered ourselves some good old ice cream and drinks. I better finish all my allotment of sinful food before I'm back there to restart my gym workouts!

As we reached the entrance, a very young waitress, probably doing working during her secondary school holidays, greeted us, and directed us to the nearest available table.

She then brought two menus for drinks and ice-cream, and introduced the newly created items that are available now. Interestingly, she then introduced herself, and told us that she'll be servicing us, along with another colleague that came to the table at just the exact time. I guess they must have lots of practice on this.

We took a while to peruse the menus, and finally ordered our items. To this point, there's a great customer experience. 8).

And then we waited.

And waited.

Finally, one of the items we've ordered arrived. It was a two-scoop ice-cream item, with strawberry and raspberry flavours. Okay... I ordered a two-scooper but it wasn't with these flavours, while my friend ordered a three-scooper, but this sure ain't it.

We flagged a guy that appeared to be one of the managers. He came over immediately and we explained what's going on with this plate. He apologized and brought it back.

And we waited.

The same dish reappeared, with an additional scoop to make it a three-scooper that my friend has ordered. Which was fine, provided that two of the scoops weren't melting away in the rather hot spotlights in the restaurant!

They actually had the gall to give us melting ice-cream. As the Guinness stout ad says.... "Brilliant!".

Next came my two-scooper. It was okay, and again it was obviously melting away at the backend before it arrived.

We chatted for about 10 minutes and I noticed that my coffee drink hasn't arrived yet. So we flagged for another waitress. She came over, and again we explained what was wrong, in this case, a non-delivery.

She also apologized, and went back to check with the folks that I labeled as the backend staffs. They're the ones that scoop the ice-cream and make the drinks. The waitresses are the frontline staffs that have to face the customers.

And then we waited.

Another 10 minutes passed before the coffee came, served by another waitress. It's amazing to see how many waitresses there are in this tiny little area.

As I was finally drinking the coffee, YET another waitress came over, and asked about how the coffee was. I'm delighted to say that it was pretty good. Better than a lot of pseudo-coffee places I guess.

I noticed that the guy (the one that appeared to be a manager) going through some leaflets with the waitresses. Indeed, without too much of a delay, each and every waitress went to the tables and started "SPAMMING" the customers with new products ads! Imagine a pop-up ad in real life! That's just what it was all about. Obviously the manager was using targeted customer data (aka these folks are in my restaurant eating my products... they must like our new products too!) and delivering very specific targeted ads.

My friend and I kindly rejected the attempt to "educate" us on the new products, and unlike some bad spyware, the waitress went away without too much of a hassle.

Finally, we asked for the bill, as it was time for us to go.

And then we waited.

10 minutes yet again. This time round, I observed the waitress from the time we told her to the time that the bill came. She had to wait at the cashier area for that 10 minutes, so it was obviously not her fault, but a slowness in turnaround for a bill. For a better understanding, this "restaurant" is just an open area between two walkways in the shopping mall, and have a maximum of 15-20 tables.

We paid and as we left, the waitress that served us initially came to thank us for our patronage, and hoped that we'll be back again.

For a frontline staff that was supposedly being very interested in providing good service to her customers, the lack of awareness of the speed of the deliveries, and the poor quality of the deliveries cannot be excused. Since she gave us her name initially, here's a comment to Sing Yee: "Kindly make sure you check the items before you bring them to the tables". The moment the patrons saw the ice-cream melting, (and it wasn't only us), people's impression and expression changed dramatically.

Not alluding to anything, but this incident shows the need for very closely-knitted support between the frontline and the backend teams. As we're walking towards other areas of the mall, we commented about how the slow deliveries and the (lack of) quality check of some of the items served defeated the attempts by the frontline staffs to provide a good customer experience. There really isn't any point in giving a good initial impression and then going ahead and breaking it with every consequent interaction with the customers.

Managing the customer's expectation is very important. With a known operations team (the folks doing the ice-cream/coffee stuffs), and a known maximum number of customers (the number of tables), there shouldn't be any delays at all. If it's due to a lack of manpower on the operational side of things, then perhaps the branch management should ask for more resources, or start to manage the customers' expectation. If there's a need for a delay, it'd would be nice for the frontline staff to be able to communicate such a delay to the customers.

Respecting the customers' time make it a definite plus, and a definite must! My friend and I wasted probably 30-40 minutes waiting for our items and bill, though it wasn't that bad as we spent the time catching up with one another. Could we have spend the time elsewhere? Yes we could.. probably doing more contribution to the GST total (aka shopping).

The spamming/spyware incident was very unfortunate. I noticed that the folks at a few other tables were quite dismayed at the disruption and the obvious spamming. Indeed i was too. Perhaps leaving the leaflet with the bill at the end of the interaction might improve the situation, but maybe they've already tried that and the pick-up rate wasn't that postive?

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. However, it might be a long while anyway before i'm back in Singapore and have any chance to visit Hagen-Daaz again.

Any folks have similar experiences with them?

posted by Jonathan at 10:30 AM | Permalink |