Last week Jayne and I ventured out to a restaurant near where we are living. It’s a revamped restaurant attached to a hotel accommodation, so they are keen to provide a great dining experience and establish themselves as a serious contender in the marketplace for tourists as well as for locals dining out.
Here’s what happened on our visit….
The restaurant was located within easy walking distance from where we are currently staying, so Jayne and I decided to leave the car at home and walk to the restaurant.
When we arrived ten minutes early for our sitting we were pleasantly greeted, and then surprisingly shown straight to our table, rather than being offered “a drink in our bar”.
Once at the table, we were not seated by our greeter, nor was there an offer to take our coats and scarves [it was about four degrees Celsius outside]. In fact, we were left STANDING beside the table… which was a little on the awkward side as we had to remove our coats, scarves and beanies ourselves.
Nobody from the restaurant offered a solution as to where we should HANG our coats, so Jayne left hers draped over the back of her chair, while I draped my longer coat over the back of a chair at an adjoining [vacated] table.
Our waiter brought us our menus, along with a wine list, and a drinks list, which contained a very comprehensive selection of Australian gins as well as overseas made gins.
The waiter returned a few minutes later and asked us whether we would like to order a drink before dinner.
We did have a question as to one particular gin that they had on their list. We were familiar with that gin company, but the menu did not clearly specify which particular style of gin from that company that was being offered. The waiter went away to seek clarification for us, before returning to take our pre-dinner drinks order.
After he had taken our drinks order, he asked whether we were also ready to order our food.
We replied that we had chosen our food, and we placed our order with the waiter for our starters, and our main courses, as well as for a bottle of wine to enjoy with our food.
When we told the waiter what we were wanting to eat, we also gave him specific instructions that we wanted the food brought out AFTER we had finished our pre-dinner drinks, and not while we were still consuming our pre-dinner drinks.
Sadly, the restaurant failed to act on this very simple request, and our hot starters arrived before Jayne and I had even enjoyed one half of our pre-dinner drinks [and by the way, the pre-dinner drinks were delivered as requested, with a bottle of tonic water on the side, but with no swizzle sticks].
And our wine, which should also have been served before any food arrived, had not been brought to the table.
We called our waiter over to let him know to take the starters away, and to inform him that we were not happy at having our starters on the table going cold while we were trying to enjoy our pre-dinner drinks around them.
The waiter responded by telling us that he had to go and ask his manager about this. A good two minutes later the waiter returned to our table to then take the starters away and to tell us that the starters were going to be kept warm for us.
By this time, the ambiance that Jayne and I were hoping to enjoy with our pre-dinner drinks had evaporated.
Another waitress came over to ask us how our evening was going, and spent some time chatting with us…. also letting us know that the waiter who had been serving us was working in that restaurant for the first time….
Just after she left us, our wine arrived, but the small wine glasses that we had been given [and which other diners were also using] were not suitable for the big, bold cabernet sauvignon that we had chosen.
So we called the waitress back over, and asked if there were any red wine glasses of a more appropriate size. She disappeared and then quickly re-emerged with two larger, finer glasses, but with a caveat to be careful with these thin stemmed glasses, as a regular diner had already broken three of them during previous visits.
The wine was very good.
Fast forward to the end of the evening…
At the end of our meal, Jayne and I ordered two desserts, that for some reason seemed to take an eon to be delivered.
The table where we dined was located right beside the very open-plan kitchen and it appeared to us that the only thing going on in the kitchen at this time was end of night clean up.
So much so, because we overheard our waiter when he came over to the kitchen counter to ask the kitchen staff about where our desserts were… [because of our proximity to this open plan kitchen we were privy to a number of conversations in the kitchen about the timing of the delivery of our meals that night….]
This experience raised a number of interesting points that are relevant to all businesses….
Firstly, in your business, are your protocols aligned so that clients’ needs and customers’ expectations regarding timing and delivery are being met and exceeded?
Because in any business, respect of customers’ time is of primary importance.
Customers will take their business elsewhere if they feel they are being taken for granted, ignored, or disrespected. Whether those feelings are conveyed to the customer intentionally or not, they are real feelings for the customer, and customers should never be made to feel that way.
Secondly, protocols need to be in place for all situations that can arise, so that the customers’ needs, however small, are met and not ignored.
Thirdly, when a customer raises a concern, the staff must be empowered to act quickly to make things right. The staff must understand SERVICE RECOVERY, and what it actually is and needs to be for any situation, and they must see that every action of service recovery is SUCCESSFULLY achieved every time that any service recovery is needed to be implemented.
The definition of successful service recovery is that although the customer may be angry and disappointed that a service defect has occurred, the fact that the defect did occur is quickly forgotten because the customer is left feeling in awe following the service recovery process they have just experienced.
“Hoping” that your customers will not notice, or will not speak up about, or will not feel disappointment with your business’s service failures, is not the answer.
When a service defect occurs in any business, it is always best for that business to declare the defect immediately, and solve it right then and there in such a way that the defect is quickly forgotten by the customer, because the service recovery process is so truly memorable.
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