Chase Bank vs. Red Robin, to the death!

Posted on May 17, 2011


I don’t normally blog on Tuesdays, but I had two very different customer service experiences today, very close together, and I wanted to compare and contrast them.

My Expertise

I started out in the gaming industry as the assistant manager for the customer service group/team/department at Wizards of the Coast. By the end of five years (when I moved to R&D to write RPGs), I was the manager. Working directly with customers was part of my job for all five years. On top of that, I spent 5 years in WotC’s marketing department. So I bring 10 years of experience to this topic.


I got out of my car at Chase Bank, and an employee greeted me. I walked up to the front door, and another employee greeted me on my way in. She handed me a flyer for a program that doesn’t apply to me – but didn’t offer me a bottle of water or anything else from her table. I stepped inside, and I was greeted by yet a third employee. Look, Chase, all that does is reinforce the idea that you have no idea who I am. I use that branch all the time. When it was Washington Mutual, some of the employees recognized me. I’m pretty sure at least one of them knew my name – or was smart enough to use it after seeing it on his or her computer screen. None of the Chase employees recognize me. None of them know my name, and they don’t bother to use it when they do know it. Yes, your employees helped me conduct my business quickly and efficiently. No, I don’t expect to be treated like visiting royalty. If I’m important enough to greet three times, I’m important enough that you should know my name. As a side note, I expect to be greeted within 15 seconds of entering any retail establishment. You are a bank. I am happy to be greeted by a teller, when I finally get to a window (speaking of which – those glass partitions you’ve installed in every branch further reinforce the distance between employee and consumer; I hate them). If anyone else greets me, they better be handing me a cookie, offering to help me conduct my transaction, or know me personally.

Red Robin

After leaving Chase (where the same three employees wished me a nice day but didn’t thank me for choosing/using Chase), I drove to Red Robin. The greeter said “hello” as I walked in, and that was all. She didn’t pretend to know me or make a big display. I told the greeter that I wanted to sit in the bar (it’s quieter and faster). She followed me to my seat and placed my menu and my table setting in front of me. If I had known she was going to do that, I would have waited in the lobby for her to hand it to me, and I said so. She laughed – a genuine, heartfelt, laugh – told me it was no problem, and left. I was the only customer in the bar area when I sat down, but my waiter (Shane) didn’t hover. He, too, was friendly, without being obtrusive or fake about it. He didn’t bring me refills without asking first – and he did offer me a refill on my “bottomless fries,” which doesn’t always happen in Red Robin. On my way out, I let him know that the ketchup needed refilling. He looked upset until I told him that I’d had plenty, but the bottle was almost empty. He thanked me, and I’m sure the next customer had a full bottle.

Finish Him!

So, in a head-to-head match-up, I would have to give Red Robin a flawless victory over Chase. The lesson that I hope to impart is that good customer service should be unobtrusive. If you want to personalize your customer service, then there are no half measures. Learn and use the customer’s name. If you’re too big to know all your customers (and let’s face it, Chase is “too big to fail”), then don’t try to fake it. It just pisses us off.