Last week I did something I’ve not done in many years – ate lunch at the local Long John Silver’s restaurant. A number of cosmetic changes occurred on the interior since the last visit, but they generally retained the extant nautical theme. One thing that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there before was a bell near the exit with a sign below stating “Ring the bell if we provided great service”. My god, I went there for a little artery clogging paste and instead upon my departure end up being faced with an existential dilemma….
To Ring or Not to Ring: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous consumerism, or to take arms against a sea of corporate pablum and by opposing end it.
Here are the arguments pro and con as I see it
Not to ring We may be certain that this whole ‘have customers ring a bell’ idea was hatched by some enthusiastic junior executive at the LJS corporate HQ. No doubt the genius in question was tasked with devising some way to improve customer service and had the epiphany that employees hearing a bell ring equals positive feedback/reward. Sadly, this same individual also must have slept through his/her psych 101 class, as he/she was apparently oblivious to the not so subtle Pavlovian undertones behind the concept. By ringing, the customer reinforces this paradigm, treating the fast food employees no differently than Pavlov’s dogs. The other (and more compelling) argument is that it’s simply a waste of time because the employees don’t give a rip. Do 17 year old minimum wage-earning fast food employees have conversations like these – “Say Julie, I heard the bell ring five times during your lunch shift and only three times during my dinner shift. I bet that 20 cent/hour raise is going to have your name on it. How do you garner such high levels of customer satisfaction? I just gotta make that bell ring some more.” “Well Skip, I just wear a smile on my face all the time and try to put myself in the customers’ shoes. Remember the old saying in our new-hire training videos - happy employees make for happy customers…..”
To ring Perhaps the above arguments seem overpowering only because we have become so jaded (hey, I worked a few years at Baskin-Robbins). Sure, we assume employees exhibiting turnover rates at the level found in the fast food industry don’t give a crap, but perhaps on some level they actually do care. Hearing a bell ring could in fact be a reminder that someone in the world is aware of their existence and thought enough about their performance to actually spend one second ringing a bell. And who knows, maybe there really are employees who actually feel good every time an angel earns its wings. A bell, after all, seems more friendly than those impersonal customer comments cards that no one ever fills out unless they have a gripe/bad experience.
I’m picking on LJS because I happened to experience this recently, but there are many many more examples of these sort of useless/impotent ‘feelgood corporate policies' to be found. The most common are probably phone etiquette policies where employees are supposed to answer the phone with some sort of stock phone script that identifies the company and supposedly says something about it or mention some sale or other offer e.g. “Thank you for calling Happy Piggy Grocery stores, home of the famous biggy piggy discount card, how may we help you”