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Following Through on Customer Service

Why your good customer service might not be as good as you think

By David Kincheloe - January 25, 2018


I took my wife out to dinner the other night, at one of our favorite spots in Golden. It's nothing too upscale, but certainly the sort of restaurant that allows for high expectations. And it's the sort of spot where those expectations are generally met.

First, I ordered a cocktail. We love to sit in the bar at this establishment, and they have a varied happy hour menu with a lot of unique drink options. When my cocktail arrived, there was a fruit fly in it. I pointed this out to the waitress, who apologized and immediately took the drink away. I was pleased that it was the general manager who brought out my drink replacement--a sign of good training that the waitress reported the incident to the manager, and, in turn, the manager showed face to make good. He also apologized and offered to comp both my cocktail and my wife's drink. As a guest, I was totally satisfied; as a restaurant consultant, I made note of these good practices.

Next, we ordered an appetizer from the bar menu. However, when it arrived to the table, the order was wrong. Working in the restaurant industry, I understand that mistakes happen, so I probably have more grace than the average guest; but at the same time, I know that it's important to bring these things to staff attention. (Plus, this wasn't a working dinner, and we wanted our order corrected.) I followed the same procedure as before; and so did the restaurant staff. The waitress reported to her manager, who came out and comped our appetizer.

Are you expecting that I give their guest services an A+? Let's take a look at what they got right:

1. It's clear that proper training practices were employed in this restaurant, and that there is a clear chain of command. Employees know how to handle mistakes and also to make sure the higher-ups are informed about what's going on.

2. The manager did a great job, coming out to personally apologize and comping the problem dishes. Mistakes are inevitable in a person-led industry; and the right way to handle a mistake is to apologize for it.

But from a consultant perspective, I think this restaurant was missing Step Three. After two major issues with our meal so far, our consultants would advise: don't leave room for a third strike. The manager should not only have comped the drinks and the appetizer, but the whole meal.

Perhaps that seems like a large payout to you; but here is the reasoning: The cost of a meal simply isn't worth the bad publicity. When you have a disgruntled guest, it's not just that guest you have to consider. It's the guests' friends and their friends and so on. Restaurant business is very word of mouth, very reputation-driven. So, in that sense, the cost of a meal is a cheap price to pay for a lot of good publicity. 

The point is to make sure that you implement good customer services practices, and that you see them through, into the zone of above and beyond. These are the small details that can have enormous consequence in terms of future business, things that our restaurant consultants have enough experience with to point out. 

Photo by Bimo Luki on Unsplash