Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Customer service training that worked

(Commentary alert!)

Those of you who read my Intelligence column in T+D might have guessed that customer service is a bit of a pet peeve for me.

I've written on the topic quite a few times--most recently the column "Unbelievable Service" in August 2004 and a two-part series "Just One Thing" and "Strategic Service" in October and November 2003.

I'm always on the lookout for good customer service, and I had an experience over the weekend that I'd like to share with everyone.

I had gone to a restaurant in my neighborhood for a nice brunch with a couple of friends. After ordering, we sat there for about a half an hour without any food. I noticed, but didn't think much of it, as the restaurant was quite crowded and I remembered waiting a while last time I was there for brunch. I figured it was just the price we had to pay for eating at this popular restaurant at a popular time.

However, all of a sudden a man appeared at our table. "I'm the manager," he said, "and I want to apologize for your food taking so long. Frankly, we dropped the ball. I want to you to know that your food will be out shortly, and the meal is on us."

The waitress came over about 10 minutes later with the food and explained that there was some mixup in the kitchen and the cooks thought they had made it when they hadn't.

I was impressed. Although the principles of take responsibility, apologize, fix the problem, and go above and beyond aren't hard ones to understand or master, it seems rare that an organization follows them these days. But the manager's words were magic. Any irritation I had at being left waiting melted away in the face of his speech.

I might've thought that we had just encountered a particular good manager, except that my friend said, "That's great. The only other time that happened to me was in this other restaurant" that's in a neighboring town.

I said, "As a matter of fact, they're owned by the same people." So it became apparent that this type of service for mess-ups was a company-wide policy that managers were trained to enact.

A round of applause. It did my customer-service-hunting heart good.

No comments: