My 2-year-old threw up all over my shirt tonight. At a restaurant. Right after the food arrived. Anyone who has a 2-year-old, or has had a 2-year-old knows this is not surprising. What happened after that was.
Tonight, we visited a burger joint - Jax Burgers, Fries & Shakes in Magnolia, Texas – that is still pretty new and that we visit every few weeks. They have super awesome burgers, fries, and shakes (love when a restaurant lives up to its name), their owner is friendly and takes great pride in her work, and the place is defined by top notch service and cleanliness. And tonight, even without the owner, her employees demonstrated that this small business operates according to a consistent set of customer-focused values. Not corporate values – human values.
When my little one vomited all over me, restaurant employees not only mopped up, but then took a shirt off of the sale rack and gave it to me and wouldn’t let me pay for it, as much as I tried. This is the closest thing they could have done to giving me the shirt off their back.
Maybe this seems like the obvious thing to do, and it should be. But it is not what most businesses would do. Because at most places, employees would question whether they had the authority to do that, how they would account for it, whether that would raise questions in the mind of other customers… Here, there was no question. Their reaction was based on how they would want to be treated and how they would treat someone in their own home.
It reminded me of when I waited tables one summer in college. My first night on the job, I spilled four drinks at one time on a man who was having dinner with his wife and son. After apologizing profusely and nearly breaking down in tears, I worked up the courage to tell my manager, who resembled Ving Rhames. He said, “Come with me. I’ll show you how we handle this here.” We approached the table together and he told the man, “Sir, we are very sorry. This seldom happens, but when it does, we do everything we can to make it right. First and foremost, we will take care of your dry cleaning – we have a relationship with the place just a few doors down and you can tell them I sent you and it will be covered no charge, or if you prefer to go elsewhere, we’ll just give you cash to cover it. Second, your meal is on us tonight, and you may want us to box it up halfway through because you’ve got dessert coming too. Your next meal with us is covered too, but you have to ask for Petri. Wear your grubbies next time, and if he spills a drop on you next time, I’ll cover your meal every week for a year.”
That family came in every week – sometimes two or three times in a week – and asked for me every time. They were happier leaving our care that night than they were before I spilled the drinks on him. That was a huge lesson for me.
And now I want to find a way to repay the employees and owner at Jax. It’s sad that I was so heartened by their response. But that is the reality. And it will be rewarded by my loyalty and my sharing of this story every chance I get. It’s not just about their bountiful and tasty burgers, buffalo fries, and brilliant shakes. It’s so much more than that. Apparently they listen and actually respond to feedback in a meaningful way too, according to this H-Town Chow Down review.
The rise of social media has brought with it renewed calls for businesses to act like real people. To interact with people on a human level. To show that they care. To develop relationships between the brand and its stakeholders – supporters, employees, volunteers, customers, donors, and on and on. But many businesses – no, MOST businesses – still don’t get it. They don’t know how to act human. How to be human. And that is because they keep approaching it from a corporate brand level, when they should instead be empowering their employees, starting on the front lines, to just act like they would with someone they know.
Jax gets it. And they aren’t even active in social spaces.
My manager got it.
Do you and your employees get it?