Wednesday, March 10, 2010

it's a great day for ice cream

at coldstone creamery!

when i was fourteen and a freshman in high school, my friend ashton helped me get my first real job at the coldstone creamery down the road from lahser. the store had been open for maybe three months when i was hired, and it was owned by husband and wife, terry and mary ellen. after a career in sales, terry had decided to cough up the two hundred and fifty grand to buy a franchise, selecting a spot in the strip at the corner of square lake and woodward for its proximity to a number of businesses, including a starbucks and a blockbuster, that were already doing brisk business.

until i had other jobs, i didn't realize how spoiled i had been to have terry as my first boss. despite a few odd quirks (it was entirely regrettable to get into a conversation about environmental issues with his evangelical beliefs...), terry was an excellent teacher. not only was he intent on instilling a sense of pride in maintaining a superbly clean, well-stocked store, but he also emphasized the importance of customer service. he himself was as chatty as could be, but it was never idle; rather, terry was amazing at reading people and tailoring his behavior to make every customer feel good about coming into the store.

now, here's the thing. i started at coldstone almost six years ago exactly, and probably have worked four solid years during that time, so i know everything about running the store. that is to be expected after so much experience, but it doesn't fully account for why i am so good at my job. of course i can keep the store extremely clean and running smoothly, but what i really enjoy and excel at is working behind the stone with customers.

when people come into coldstone, they are generally in good moods because they are treating themselves. my personal belief is that there are a lot of things that are difficult in life, but ice cream shouldn't be; i want every customer to walk out feeling like they got exactly what they wanted, and i'll go to any length to provide that. this is where building a relationship is crucial, because although my knowledgeability with the ice cream is crucial, it is in no way the be all end all. treating customers with respect requires understanding individual needs and adjusting to suit them.

last night, i was talking to a youngish guy as i rang him up, and i gave him one of my favorite stories: "i've been working here for six years, and i can tell what someone is going to get the second they walk in. if i wanted to, i could mouth their order to them as they told me. unfortunately, it's a skill that doesn't have much use in the real world." he was amazed. as he was leaving, i was out sweeping in the lobby, and he approached me to say something to the extent of maybe you should find some other way to use your psychic powers.

look, if you spend enough time in the store, it becomes clear that there are certain demographic tendencies as to what people will order, and that's just a result of being observant of trends. if you are a fourteen year old girl with your three friends, you will get a birthday cake remix in a like it (because you don't want to look like a pig and by the way, if you knew the nutritional facts, you would never eat it again), if you are a twenty-something male with your girlfriend, you'll get a love it chocolate devotion, and if you're a youngish woman in a pantsuit coming in after work, you'll get a love it cheesecake fantasy (in a waffle bowl if it's monday, chocolate dipped if it's been a shitty day). although i always ask, i can tell who really wants a waffle bowl and who will get one just because i suggested it.

reading customers is an art, and there's nothing more rewarding than making someone's day a little bit better. my motto of sorts is that there is a lot of compromise in life, but everyone should leave with a creation that is exactly what they wanted.

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