Just Nice Isn’t

Foodie Friday, and this week I learned something from going to lunch. I’ve written any number of times about how critical customer service is, both in the food business and everywhere else. I found out from my dining experience this week that there is a lot more to the equation. Let me explain.

I was out for a business lunch. We were seated in a section that wasn’t particularly busy and greeted by our server. Let’s call him Jim. He was as pleasant as could be. He asked about our drink preferences and said he’d be right back with the drinks as well as some water. When he came back 10 minutes later with our two glasses of iced tea, I thought maybe he’d had to serve another table. No water either, but not a big deal. He also left without taking our food order.

Upon his return, he apologized when he saw that he hadn’t delivered the water. He ran to get it. He must have run a 3K because it took another 10 minutes. Jim was still incredibly nice as he took our food order – charming, actually – but I was beginning to realize that his demeanor was much better than his competence. Other tables that had been seated after us we receiving food as we were still ordering.

The rest of the meal went on like this. Smilin’ Jim would interact with us every so often and we would have to wait. The customer service was abysmal, frankly, although it was hard to get really angry about it. That’s the lesson I learned.

Nice isn’t enough. Jim was about as good as it gets with respect to customer interaction but he was a total failure when it came to customer service. It’s not enough to train the people who service our customers to be nice. We must train them to produce results and those results must be customer focused. If I go back to this place (the food was actually quite good once it arrived) I’ll be sure that Jim smiles on someone else.  Service with a smile is great, but remember that “service” comes first in that sentence!

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