Foodie Friday again, thank goodness. My friend Barry is a restaurateur. He runs a place in Georgia and their tagline is “Everything’s So Right.” There is a lot of wisdom packed into those few words (very much like Barry!) and I got a chance to see that sort of thinking first-hand this week.
I went out with a friend for a beverage. We hit one of our usual haunts and she ordered something that she’s had there before. Unfortunately, what arrived at the table wasn’t even a close approximation of what she was expecting.
We said something to our server (our usual seats at the bar wouldn’t permit social distancing so we took a table) who mentioned that the drink was made by someone our friend, the head bartender, was training. She also immediately apologized and asked what else she could bring instead. Her attitude was one of sincere regret as if she had personally disappointed instead of just delivering a badly-made beverage. She wanted to make everything right.
Making everything right is long-term thinking. The problem in this case wasn’t a bad drink. What would have become the problem would have been the server not taking immediate steps to fix the problem with a customer-friendly attitude. In business, we don’t get in trouble for the things we do. More often than not, it’s for the thing we don’t do. That might be why we visit this place at least once a week.
There’s another restaurant in town that offers the best Chinese food in the area. It’s authentic and as good as I’ve had in NYC’s Chinatown. I rarely go there because the service is unapologetically atrocious. You can wait for an hour for your food to arrive even when the place is nearly empty. It certainly doesn’t take as long to cook as it does to arrive. Does anyone seem to care about making everything right? Nope.
Screw-ups are a fact of life no matter what business you’re in. 99.9% satisfaction means that 1 person in 1,000 is going to have an issue. If you go to sleep thinking that one person is far outweighed but the 999, you’re not going to sleep very well for long. Making everything right has to be the gaol in a time when everyone has access to social platforms and review sites. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do. When people spend their hard-earned cash on your product or service, they expect you to solve whatever problem – hunger and thirst in this case-, brought them to you with a smile. If everything’s not right, you haven’t, have you?
A little reminder this Foodie Friday. I called one of my favorite taco places last night to place an order that I’d pick up. I ended up hanging up the phone without placing the order and the reason why I did so should be instructive for anyone who has customers (and what business doesn’t?).
The place we were ordering from serves very authentic tacos and other Mexican dishes. One of these is a torta – a sandwich – called a Toluquena. While there are minor variations on it depending on the place, it’s a pretty common menu item and I wanted one. I was also trying to get a plate of cheese enchiladas and a “wet” burrito. All of these things were on the restaurant’s menu.
A woman answered the phone. It took a few tries to get her to understand that I would come to pick up the food but once we had that squared away, I asked for the first item: the Toluquena. She didn’t understand. She asked if I meant a Tampiquena, which is a common steak dish but not what I wanted. “No, una torta – a sandwich.” A Tampiquena sandwich? No, a Toluquena. The next couple of minutes involved her getting the menu and pointing out to her where it was. It was sort of a sandwich “Who’s On First” routine.
We moved on to the enchiladas. Cheese enchiladas. “With chicken?” No, just cheese. “Chicken enchiladas?” Let’s try Spanish – “no, no carne, no pollo. Solamente queso.” She said she needed to go check, at which point it was time to hang up the phone. The odds of getting the food we wanted were quite long at that point and I was in no mood to eat something I didn’t order. We ended up driving to another taco place (just as good, by the way) and brought home exactly what we wanted.
The reminder is this. First, more folks are using the telephone to place orders to go these days for the obvious reasons. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the restaurant business or selling hardware or party goods. People want to call in and pick up. Next, because of this, the person or persons answering that phone need to know the products (or menu). In my case, the language wasn’t an issue – I speak enough Spanish to get by – but my guess is that the bulk of your customers speak English so your phone people should be able to as well.
This woman’s inability to handle our order didn’t just cost them last night’s business. The last time we ordered from this place we received the wrong food in our order having ordered over the phone and picked up. I love the food but I love getting the food I order even more. I probably won’t go back until I’m comfortable ordering in person (you can’t order online from this place either). When a customer service issue becomes routine, you’re in trouble.
Every customer interaction is a chance to shine. Every person who will be dealing with customers needs to have the training and resources they need to shine brightly, especially now. Make sense?
I bought a new (used) car a couple of weeks ago. The old one, which I loved, had some weird electrical things going on and I figured it was smarter to get rid of it before it decided to bail on me. Frankly, I didn’t like the service department at the nearest official dealer either. The last time I went there (and I only went there for warranty repairs), they kept me for 4 hours for something that they said would take an hour.
The latest car is great except the screen for the entertainment/navigation/etc. system had little spider cracks in it. It turns out it’s common to this make and is due to dramatic temperature changes over time. It is under warranty and I could have it fixed for free. Well, guess who was going to do that repair?
You can’t make this up, but it was the same service department that serviced the other make of car. Oh sure, it was in the building next door but it is common ownership and, as I found out, common customer service philosophy. The dealer from whom I bought the new car called and set up an appointment for me to go have the screen replaced. The part was ordered. I got there on time. When they called me back in after an hour, the screen hadn’t been replaced and they gave me an estimate to do $2,000 of other work. Do you think I was happy?
I won’t belabor the story, except to say that it turns out the dealers have to submit photos that they take via their internal system to have the warranty repair approved prior to making the repair. I found that out from a second “official” dealer I went to. They had me there for 30 minutes and said they’d call when the part came in. It came in and yesterday the repair was done in exactly the amount of time they said it would take. New screen, no charge, great service. Yay!
Of course, the first dealer wasn’t happy about the review I posted nor about the response I gave to the questionnaire about my service from headquarters. They never explained the need for an initial visit nor did they explain why the part they had ordered was given to another customer according to what my dealer found out.
It’s a great reminder that customers can handle pretty much anything except being lied to or being kept in the dark. They posted an answer to my review but my comments are out there. They’re accurate but probably could have been prevented had the manager simply explained the warranty process to me and not tried to sell me on a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need at that point. I went to him with a problem. Instead of a solution, he tried to tell me I had many other problems (or my car did) without solving the one I needed him to solve.
Be open. Be honest. Solve your customers’ problems. You’ll be in business for a long time.
Filed under Consulting, Huh?