Sunday, September 10, 2006

tim horton's...

tim horton's (t.h.) what is the lure behind this purveyor of coffee and donuts? is it the coffee slang you use to order with....double, double - referring to (2) cream, (2) sugar typically in the large sized cup? i started drinking the coffee without the sugar and only (1) cream, i can tell you my taste experience is far less interesting now... apparently it takes a tanker truck full of sugar for a decent taste, exaggeration? maybe.

ok, not the coffee...maybe the lure is the donuts, are they warm, typically not unless your timing is such as to get them straight out of the warming device from the back...are they fresh? Well in most cases my opinion is that they sure don't melt in your mouth like a really fresh donut does, there are other donut makers who really go out of their way to ensure this is not said about their product line, krispy kreme maybe one, although admittedly i have not had the level of experience with them due to location and frankly due to health reasons i don't actually eat donuts with any frequency, i'm more into ordering a bagel, crossaint or occaisonal muffin and i would give those items a pass, not exceptional but passing grade...not the coffee without sugar, not the donuts either....

it must be the smiling faces and warm welcome...that definitely used to be something i could say was a bit of a normal and consistent occurrence. not any longer. now just like a myriad of other retail, service driven companies, smiles and courtesies are more rare. certainly not the mantra at every level of customer touch point. being busy is no execuse not to smile, say sir, miss, and a have a fantastic day...either

not the coffee, not the donuts, not the smiling faces....then it has to be the fact that they are the fastest in town bar none....the short line-ups and when the line does get longer it has been properly anticipated by management and by design, the details of directing all foot or vehicle traffic has been addressed for maximum efficiency, there's evidence that someone from headquarters in oakville actually focused on the "customer experience" from every single aspect and in fact, that's all they do every single day...staffing is cranked up, processes have been adapted and improved so that every "t.h.'s coffee customer experience at every location is amazing.

all of which would be immediately evident because we as customers are in and out in a jiffy regardless of location, time of day or day of week...after all...it's only coffee, donuts, toasted bagels, soups and sandwiches right...not steak and lobster, other fast food businesses at least despite sub-par products are at least making it evident they want to be really fast...

i bet if we were to sit in a board meeting at t.h., the statement would be made that "here at t.h., it's the ceo's job to ensure each and ever t.h.'s coffee experience is a memorable one." not nearly far enough for me but it would certainly be a start...and this might be the case in reality if mr. paul house realized that his share price could be positively effected by making that his and the company's mandate. amazing.

am i being too harsh and expecting too much, many of you would say absolutely and my response would be WAKE UP! when did mediocrity become acceptable?

when did expecting a great cup of coffee, a fresh donut all delivered with a sense of urgency as if the person doing the work actually gave two hoots and polished off with a smile become too much to ask?

there's now two issues we're discussing here, our willingness to accept, in fact to pay t.h. (and others) over and over for mediocrity as the norm and the level of execution at tim horton's and who's responsibility it is to change it...of course i'm showcasing tim horton's but there is an infinite list of companies that fit this ill-fated category.

my theory on why the general public is willing to accept mediocrity will be saved for another time, today it's all about timmy's and their band of lack lustre processes, managers, franchisees and employees all wrapped up in a corporate culture that is more than starting to show signs of weakness and inconsistency...a product of success that mr. house and gang were ill prepared for.



seismic, cosmic change to mandate. amazing. time....
why?
choose your legacy mr. house...
i helped to take a successful privately-held company public and we opened lots of stores and blah, blah, blah......and i personally made a tremendous amount of money delivering a mediocre product and mediocre customer experience to millions of people. ---- your current cookie cutter career bio...and oh ya, we also felt good about ourselves because of our foundation too...
or
at t.h. -- we owned the entire coffee business, by first delivering "fair trade coffee only", second, my team and i were the catalyst that completely revolutionized the retail/service coffee industry by creating the most amazing, highest value, fastest and by far the friendliest coffee customer experience on the planet. i, personally was recognized for creating such a ground swell of intense pride within our organization among our team members for the job and our customers that we were recognized as the #1 employer on the planet by countless sources around the world the entire time i was ceo and for years beyond...not to mention that i ensured our foundation provided well over one million scholarships to those children in dire need, rather than fostering a quest for a better future by simply taking them camping (nobel effort to be sure), that wasn't enough for us, so... we actually delivered the tools for a better future...
give me a month with the top brass and i'll whip them into shape, have them so focused on the new mandate. amazing. their heads will spin...want to change things...simple turn every single manager's bonus structure and compensation including mr. house (ceo) into a straight commission based program dependant on the number of times a customer comments on how amazing the experience was at tim horton's...radical, you bet...want to hear whinning, this will sure showcase the slackers in your organization but fast...imagine the amount of creativity and energy now put into making sure we as customers are treated like...human beings, to be respected, pampered even (don't we deserve that?)...each and every time. the fact that this is so unusual is the competitive advantage...if customers are willing to waste time in long lines for the current experience imagine what would happen if this was to change?
oh oh, then mr. house would have to devise a new ground shattering super-efficient methodology for serving his coffee and goodies (paul, just call me and we'll head to see the folks at m.i.t.) ...i sense a market shift led by t.h....then again...no not really, remember who we're talking about here, the proof is in the pudding...if they were so concerned about us, even the simple things like a smile everytime, would be changing and improving today...
mr. house, you need to be an evangelist for mandate. amazing. if you're not up to the challenge for the good of your customers...and dare i say your shareholders...step aside, i'm sure the company can cross train you to be a technician else where within the organization on some level...harsh? yes! and that's what it takes sometimes to really make a difference and to commit to mandate. amazing. why waste your time on the planet being mediocre???


the on the ground, in the trenches culture at t.h. does not reflect strong service. why? they're a victim of their own success. open a t.h. and you're guaranteed a steady volume, regardless of where you are. so does one as the manager/franchisee really have to lose sleep about how many times a smile is cracked at the till? nope.

i look at my experience at t.h. as a learning experience, that's the only reason i continue to go there. they're a case study in how processes must adapt to growth, how managers must be constantly vigilant in analyzing the "customer experience." i'm willing to bet that those two words are not in the managers training manual...

t.h. has not evolved and in fact, i believe as successful as it is despite the above statements, it's actually losing money every single hour of every single day...the exact amount will fluctuate with each individual operation because there is the odd excellent manager/franchisee within the organization...

they're simply out-gunned and overwhelmed, the big headquarters of a now public company is too far in the clouds, does not have the perspective or creatively focused culture to realize or operationalize it...now as is typical worrying more about share price bounce than the customer experience. logically, i know they pay attention to some of these things...but it's a mediocre effort in my opinion...with their resources, they should have enough juice to be able to combat the long lines and substandard product issues.

t.h. - mandate. amazing. that should be their singular goal in life every day...take back control of the customer experience, instead it's being dictated by volume, outdated processes and a lack of a deep down, penetrating cultural essence that says we can't wait to make every coffee order an experience to behold...sound silly??? sure, if what you are wanting is a mediocre experience...if that's your goal in life...

as consumers, we put up with it, we get tired of demanding better, companies ignore us, we keep paying them to ignore us by buying their product/service. managers get tired of being diligent with their employees, holding them accountable for fear that they'll quit...guess what not only does mr. house have to be an evangelist for mandate. amazing. but so does each and every manager and each and every employee...a tough job, the skeptic would say an impossible job...only if you buy into that negativity...it is a choice you know???

let's help the t.h. managers out....try this, anyone with a computer/printer combo, that's probably nearly all of you...purchase a package of those do-it-yourself business cards and then print on them the following statement...


your service today -- lousy...take some pride in what you do, smile and show some respect...ultimately without customers...you'd be out on your ass.



on the back of the card...
by the way one of these cards will be given to your manager as well.....with your name on it.

or any similar type message you like. then once you've finished the transaction, and nothing has been spit in your breakfast, you can leave a card to smarten them up and let them know we do actually want better...accountability is what it's all about...

as far as t.h. goes...i believe that their hearts are generally in the right place and that they're good people, why else would i spend a large chunk of my sunday on them...

5 comments:

megmacf said...

It's a ferocious battle to keep our employees "happy" and smiling. To pass on this "happiness" to the customer takes extreme measures. For example, just this morning I had to split up two cashiers who were about to have a fist fight about who had to make a bagel. (sigh) I completely agree with everything you've said, and wish I could post your entire site in my staff room. 90% of our business is based on how people feel about being there, and to improve that you either beat them or bribe them. I bribe them, with jellybeans, icecreams, slushes, etc... anything that will get a temporary smile to pass on to the customer is worth it. Please print your business cards, they're an idea which would definately be picked up by head office.. :)

Sorry to hear that you've had a bad experience though... it's certainly not up to standards.

waltman said...

Meg,

Thank-you for commenting. I understand completely that motivating staff to feel a sense of ownership in a service roll is tough. I've got some ideas for you if you like...walter@fusedlogic.com

Adam said...

I just stumbled on this site and I am wondering, what is it you're whining about? You didn't state a single instance where you had a bad experience. You contradict yourself in saying that you have a huge problem with Tim Horton's yet you go and support them every week. You are one person in a long line of coffee drinkers that walk in and out like a herd of animals. I don't know of a single successful fast food joint that offers better (or worse) service than Tim Horton's. They get you what you want and you don't tip them and they do it quick. My guess is that they have perfected the speed of the transaction because of years upon years of customer analysis and found that their customers want to be treated like a herd because, focusing on a "better experience" would slow the process down and they won't get their ever important coffee/getting to work or wherever it is they're going on time. It's a speedy process for a reason (probably the most important reason people go there). My second guess is, that you have never worked in a food service position in your life. Because if you had, you would never have written an editorial like this. Oh one more thing... make those cards, and get people fired from their job's (hence putting them on welfare... there's a tax you'll be paying and not even getting a coffee for it)just because you are whining about satisfactory service. After all whats ruining a bunch of people's lives versus you getting your smile. At least Tim Horton's help's the underpriveledged.

waltman said...

Adam, thank-you for sharing. This entry was really more of a general observation and personal editorial rant regarding the level of service that tim horton's was providing me and others which I'd personally observed.

frankly, more customers should voice their opinions more often, it's frequently the only way front-line managers and staff can interpret customer satisfaction and service levels from the people who matter most, the customer. otherwise, people may think that their customers enjoy and actually gravitate towards opportunities to be "herded like animals"

i don't have one huge problem with tim horton's and their service, i think it's clear i observed and commented on several problems with tim horton's. regardless, my wife and i would rather continue to support tim horton's (a canadian company) and see them get better. second cup is also a place we frequent but it isn't always convenient to go out of our way to one of their locations...although we're doing that more often. if by supplying a bit of tough love once and awhile they actually improve their processes, many canadians will be happier for it. keeping large corporations accountable to their customers and their "employees" is i'm sure you agree, important.

if by doing it "quick" you mean in under 15 minutes, i'd say you're probably accurate in your statement...however, if you really want to know, time the line-up, in store and at the drive-thru during the busier times of day and do that over a month and at different locations. then comeback to me with your RE-definition of "quick".

generally we've found that on average...12 or more minutes during rush hour - unacceptable. 5 or less during non-peak which is acceptable. now this spanned over 20 trips to numerous tim horton's locations in one month's time. (by the way...that was simply the time it took to get the speaker or the till to place an order...)

Adam, i would love to hear tim horton's respond to your thought about years of deliberate and detailed analysis resulting in the corporate belief that customers "prefer" to be herded like animals...and that providing a better experience would slow their service down...how much slower would it be to smile, look people in the eye, have a clean restaurant, clean bathrooms, clean uniforms, ensure that the coffee lids are always on properly so as not to burn their customers or have coffee ruin clothes, get orders accurate "THE FIRST TIME" without having the customer repeat themselves and finally, have managers be more visible and be positively encouraging their staff to continue to excel...???

further, it's tough to slow the service down with amazing elements when you first don't even have your drive-thrus open at various locations...that's one way to impress the "herd"...

staffing shortages are also a sign that they're not amazing to work for...simply raising the minimum wage offered "isn't working." however, their managers are at a loss, they do not have the solutions to improve the situation...and there are many ways to improve employee retention outside of wages...even employees want more out of work than to simply be herded like animals to their work stations...

and what about your referal to the expectation of a tip? tips for service used to be based on the level of service received...now the service industry is riddled with a generation of boys and girls who expect life to be handed to them...sort of like receiving a trophy for breathing.

i actually have a philosophy of "over-tipping" when i experience an excellent level of service...unfortunately, those occasions are rare...the tip reflects attitude, service and the level of understanding of the customer experience.

when i was much younger i most certainly did have part-time service industry jobs...it's in part because of that experience i'm able to identify the weaknesses here today.

finally, it seems as though you're a fan and proponent of mediocre service as long as it meets your definition of "quick." the "better experience" is too much effort and impossible to be done with efficiency.

Adam, you also seem to be a fan of allowing people to underachieve at their job so long as they stay off welfare...what instead you should be suggesting is that maybe these folks who do not have a passion for being in the service industry and working with the public may want to look for a position that would pay the same rate of pay (or possibly better) and they wouldn't be required to serve the general public...such as warehousing, landscaping and snow removal, line cook, general labour, office staff, manufacturing, and many more...all good positions with no service environment in most cases.

if people took more pride in their job, actually cared about it, smiling would come easy...instead they sluff, coast and do just enough to get by and accepting that seems to be the general theme of your comment...and by not viewing that as acceptable..."i'm a whiner," well ok then...i guess i'm a whiner...

Adam, consider this...if the employee gets fired for not supplying the level of service that tim horton's suggests is standard...i or others didn't ruin their lives THEY did, and it's not "ruined" by a long shot...I believe people should adopt the philosophy of taking responsibility for one's actions (or lack there of). a person can change a life drastically by holding themselves accountable and by focusing on a "can do it amazingly" attitude as opposed to "just do enough to get by" attitude.

i challenge you Adam...whatever job or career you have pursued up to today...go into work the next time and try to do the most amazing job you've even done in your life...sustain that level of effort and see what happens to your career in terms of opportunity...if not for the customers of the company you work for...be amazing for yourself.

Anonymous said...

FYI....you tip at Tim Horton's in the Maritimes. Seriously. Most people throw a quarter for every coffee. No joke. They expect it.