When employees take it upon themselves to "communicate"… right way or wrong way?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Is Facebook ever dull? Not so long as issues such as this rise from the echo-chamber. Today, the National Post printed a small piece on a Facebook Group (3500+ members strong) created on behalf of Tim Hortons’ employees (although whether the creator is an employee is yet to be determined) to “educate” consumers on how to order.

Case in point: 

  • Stop telling us to “stir it well” there is no button on the cash register for that.
  • when you drive up to the speaker box have your order ready, we don’t carry “Give me a seconds” or “Hold ons”
  • Don’t ask “What kind of donuts do you have?” come in and look for yourself…

Albeit direct and to-the-point (bordering on… nay, definitely snarky) in terms of its “do’s and don’ts”, it highlights the growing issue of employees becoming unintended guardians of the brand (assuming that the creator is an employee given her intimate knowledge of all things behind the counter) – in this case from a potentially damaging standpoint. Or is it?

Well-intended it may be – though born out of frustration, no question. It certainly does not reflect the tone that the corporation would want to see communicated to customers. However, in this age of transparency and authenticity, I can’t help but wonder if customers wouldn’t appreciate such information – packaged perhaps a bit differently. I for one, still can’t order anything other than a “regular” coffee, and refuse to say any equivalent of large, one cream, one sugar. And while I support the notion that the customer is king (or queen), I also feel that my time is precious, so any information to move the line forward is appreciated.

Ultimately, I wonder if this form of communication highlights not only the issues and complaints of customers (which typically has been the focus of social media) but also those of employees – who are (in a roundabout way) communicating to their employers that a different form of customer communication could create a better experience all-round.



Tamera Kremer

Interesting conundrum here. I actually don’t have a problem with employees expressing / venting their frustrations with customers, and to be honest, having worked in the service industry many, many moons ago, I can sympathize. I think what corporations would be smart to do would be to actually go through the customer *and* employee (ala Venture I believe it was) and see where the breakdowns happen.

My bet is that employees at the Hortons wouldn’t complain about the drive-thru half as much if TH didn’t allow people to order sandwiches at the window. *That* imo, holds up the line tremendously and puts everyone on edge during a morning or lunch rush… so that when the poor tourist drives up to the window and asks about donuts it’s far too late to be civil ;)



Brendan Hodgson

When it comes to TH and other "good-food-served-quickly" joints, it may be that efficiency should trump service "quality" – however you define it – in the eyes of the customer. I think back to the Soup Nazi (Seinfeld) as a model – get the product right and you can rule by fear:-)



Brendan Hodgson

I have a question?  When is it inappropriate as a customer to suggest changes to business processes to your vendors?

You know we all occasionally want to say to the proverbial TH window guy: "Is my custom in any way impinging on your ability to have a conversation with your colleague?"

Every morning and evening I hold myself back from moving around the pylons that mark out the line for the cash registers at my local supermarket — because I KNOW we would ALL be happier if they were set out differently.

And then there’s the airport check-in…!  My five-year-old son could organise it better (but he is very clever.)  But do we say anything?


So… how about this?  We get one "what kind of donuts do you have?" for every "would you like fries with that?" that you ask.

I think customers come out of that one OK.




Charles J

Facebook hosts more than a few company groups.  I’m a member of one for a Chapters store I used to work at.  

Perhaps an accidental perk of being a Facebook member is it offers you an unadulterated glance into the minds of the people who work in some of the world’s biggest corporations.  Are they happy? Do they enjoy their jobs or do they loath going to work?

Chances are you might not like what you see if you visit some of these groups and you might not support that company in the future!



Charles J

If companies enabled and empowered their employees to communicate directly with their markets, then they wouldn’t have to do it on Facebook.

Just a thought.



Jen, writer MembershipMillionaire.com

I think being direct is a good thing but I thought number 3 was too much. Being direct doesn’t necessarily mean that you ought to have a tone. A slightly condescending one, too. There should be a better way of communicating such issues to customers. After all, customers can be very sensitive.



Sean Foley sean.p.foley@hotmail.com

The customer does not serve at the pleasure of the employee.  

If I tell you to wait, then wait.  Stop whining and feeling that your need to get information from me is more important that what I need.  The money is in my wallet and if you want it to go in yours you need to do what I tell you to do.  If you don’t like that then take a hike.  My four-year-old brain-damaged child might need my attention at that moment a little more than you do and you can use that time to do something.  I have worked for fast-food places and specialized in the drive-thru so I know there is always something you can do while waiting those precious eight seconds.  Get a perspective on what’s important is one thing.

While we’re at it, here’s a few more tips:

(1) You’re there to make the customer happy and as long the customer is not abusing you, DEAL WITH IT!  Internalize the growing up and the moving on.

(2) Use your time at the window to learn some life lessons.  Internalize the growing up and the moving on.

(3) Shave.  It shows a minimum commitment to personal hygiene, an important part of the food service industry.  Internalize the growing up and the moving on.

(3) Cover the tats.  They don’t mean anything other than you know how to be part of a fad that takes your precious minimum wage money and converts it into a life-long testament to poort taste.  Using tats to find meaning in your life means you paint yourself to avoid the realization that your life is empty and you haven’t internalized the growing up nor the moving on.

(4) Leave the face metal at home.  Piercings, hooks, bars, studs, bolts, nails, pins, loops, rings, chains, etc., all make you reveal that your character is based on fads, fashion, and, sadly, trying to be noticed solely because you couldn’t find anything more interesting to do with your time other than putting metal in your face.  The only time metal should be part of your head is when it’s straightening your teeth or retaining parts of your frontal lobe after surgery.  If a fridge magnet can stick to your lip then that’s a giant clue to internalize the growing up and move on.

(5) Tuck your shirt in and pull your pants up over your underwear.  My brain-damaged four year old knows this.  Do you think it makes you look cool or hip-hoppy to be sagging and bagging?  It looks foolish and immature.  It guarantees you will be locked out of the rest of the grown up world since you are showing you want to be a forever adolescent.  Fine, be 32 years old making minimum wage at the Stop-And-Rob while everyone else is enjoying promotions, children, marriage, home ownership, vacations, higher education, etc.  If you want to be taken seriously dress like you came with your A game instead of your lame game, you sloppyhousehoodrat.  Internalize the growing up and the moving on.

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