Everything I’ve learned about customer service has come back time and again to Del Taco.
It started with the big nachos no tomatoes. And Walter.
At 16 working side by side with a big group of friends, Del Taco wasn’t just a job. It was fun and family of sorts.
Grumpy customers were part of the equation.
The grumpiest: Walter.
Back then we had to go through several customer service tests to move forward with the job. The lesson our bosses hammered home more than any other was kill them with kindness. Like one boss said, “What are they gonna do? Yell at you for being too nice?”
Enter grumpy old Walter. And his no tomatoes. Every day.
We’d look at each other and roll our eyes, silently groaning before pasting on the expected smile and taking his order.
Lord forbid some new kid worked the grill area and made those nachos wrong.
We made it a game. Who could be the nicest to Walter? Who could get him to break and smile? Who could get him to try something other than those dang nachos?
Over time Walter’s grumpiness quit bothering us. It was just a thing. Normal. No big deal.
One day while I tried to clean the floor after a toddler terror trashed the dining room, Walter sat down with his order. I said hi, glad to see him.
Then in passing I said something silly about how he needed to takes risks and change up his order one day.
And he explained.
Walter and his wife used to come to Del Taco every once in a while. The nachos no tomatoes were her favorite.
When she died the nachos were a little something to make him feel close to her again. He appreciated us being so nice to him all the time.
It’s a lesson I forget from time to time, but I try not to.
We never know the reasons people are hurting. But we can kill them with kindness, and who knows, we might just offer comfort without even knowing it.