Erin Archuleta enjoys workshopping with small businesses and NGOs around scale and replication, supporting community and civic initiatives, and bolstering a healthy food and restaurant system. She and her husband own San Francisco’s lauded ICHI Sushi + NI Bar, and ICHI Kakiya (coming soon!) She previously held the position of Director of Field Operations and Strategy for the literacy nonprofit 826 National, where she got to make books with kids all across the US.
We know that the answer is often somewhere in between, but the fun of this section is that you have to pick just one!
Paper < Plastic
Personalization < Privacy
In-Store Shopping < Online Shopping
Transactional > Relational
Mac < PC
Customer Service > Customer Experience
Captain Kirk > Dr. Spock
Talk < Text
Dog < Cat
Movie Theater < In-Home Rental
What was your first job and what did you learn about customer service in it?
My first job was as a server at a Coney Island restaurant in my hometown of Flint, MI. Coney Island is a family-style diner famous for serving a dry chili style hot dog. Flint, like many other rustbelt towns, operated on the same timeframe as the factories that acted as its arteries. Coney Islands ran on those same shifts, too — We’d know our First Shift lunch rushes, Second Shift late night rushes, and Third Shift in the wee hours of the mornings.
Serving my customers meant helping everyone as quickly as possible; keeping everyone working, and providing a bit of levity to my regulars in the middle of their twelve-hour shifts stamping out bumpers, or checking headlights for effectiveness. Knowing a good joke or two sure never hurt your tip purse at the end of a shift.
Tell us how one outside influence impacted your customer service or customer experience thinking. (For ex. book, movie, sporting event, relationship, travel)
Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones & Butter impacted me greatly — I too have lived through the experience of working in the dining room; producing an event as a caterer; and running restaurants. She translates this as an expression of family; reference point for the diner (and the cook); and ultimately, the gift of communing you offer a guest each evening. The way she talks about service at her NYC restaurant Prune, she gives everything, gladly, to the force that is hospitality with a type of wholeness and everything that is both aspirational, and also perhaps, consumptive.
I often reflect on her version of hospitality as a pure form of benefaction with this sense of creating a moment in time for guests that is so often lost in other aspects of our modern American culture. And, her writing is impeccable. It’s raucous, (not for the faint of heart), and explores her relationship to family and how she’s crafted family when hers was nowhere to be found. Read this book if you haven’t already. Do it now.
In your own personal experience, has customer service gotten better or worse in the past five years?
That question varies — I’d say that the amount of feedback a guest has an opportunity to share either through online channels or through other modern methods has increased. Therefore: guest-centric menus catered to dietary preferences and needs have increased. In that sense, we’re doing a better job in the restaurant industry of feeding and caring for everyone.
With social media, a diner’s participation in the service process has increased exponentially, and as an owner, you are privy to a guest’s immediate reaction, good or bad. It almost seems as if there’s been transference for guests to use social media as the newer version of the old comment card. At staff line-ups before diner service commences, often, the front and back of house teams will discuss reviews, Twitter chatter, Facebook posts, and they carry the same weight as an in-person exchange with a guest. So, in a way, we’re constantly tweaking systems for improvement as we receive notice. This high-detail approach has definitely positively impacted training and service techniques for our teams.
> I consider it a bad customer experience when I am placed on hold for more than 4 minutes.
> In five years, the most important social media channel for customer service will be Instagram.
> The best book I read in the last twelve months was The Shriver Report.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.