Talk about a study in contrast. Over the summer a group of eight friends went to dinner at a well-known, rather high-end restaurant at the Jersey Shore. We had a big round table overlooking the ocean. The menu looked as great as the view.
That’s where our experience ended.
Twenty minutes after being seated, no one had come to take even a beverage order. After flagging over the maître d’, a waiter finally came and then it was another 20 minutes before drinks were served. OK, it happens.
But what happened next was a lesson in how to anger patrons and lose customers. When dinner was served, three of the entrees were not what people ordered. One entrée was missing entirely and yet another was not fully cooked. When we complained, there was no apology, just a murmured “what do you want me to do” from the waiter, so we called the manager.
The mishap was shared with him. Again, no apology, just a terse, “So if I give you a couple of drinks, will that make you happy?” And if you can’t imagine an evening going from worse to even worse, then you should have been with us when the manager began blaming us, interrupting as we tried to explain what happened and making excuses until we paid for what we ate and walked out.
Maybe they didn’t care, but they should have. The experience was posted on Facebook. Complaints were phoned into corporate headquarters. Not only did they lose our business, but if all eight of us repeated the story and those people repeated the story and more people unliked the restaurant on Facebook, well, you get the idea. In fairness to this restaurant, a corporate spokesperson did call and he sent a $50 gift certificate to be used by all eight of us the next time we wanted to dine there. If you’re not quick at math, that’s $6.25 cents per person, which can’t even buy you a beverage. And why would we want to go there again?
Let’s contrast this lack of customer service to another recent experience. I purchased three bunches of beautiful flowers at Trader Joe’s, which is a great store with exceptional customer service. Less than 24 hours later, the flowers were dead. Again, it happens. Unfortunately, this is the second time it happened to me so I filled out a form on the website letting them know. I wasn’t mad, didn’t want anything in return, and just suggested perhaps there is something going on at this store that needed correcting.
Minutes after I hit send, the manager from my local store called and profusely apologized. He said it was unacceptable and not only would he like to refund my flower money, but the next time I entertain at home, he wanted to pay for the entire meal. Wow! I was so startled by this over-the-top customer service that I was speechless. And because I was so appreciative that he called, I turned him down.
I would like to believe most people are not looking for a handout. Most of us simply want to know that those we deal with are customer-focused and care about providing a great experience that makes us want to come back. We don’t want excuses. We want to know what you can do, not what you can’t do. If we’re explaining a problem, we don’t want you to keep jumping in because that means you don’t care enough to listen. Your customer wants to feel important. If they have a problem, they want to know you’re there to help them solve it. They realize you’re in business to make money, but you have to earn that money by making them the priority. That means taking a lesson from Trader Joe’s. They don’t just go above and beyond when there is a problem. From the smiling check-out guy to product quality, packaging and return anything policies, the commitment to their customers is always there which is why their customers keep coming back.