Your customer service sucks

According to Ben Affleck in the 90’s classic, Mallrats, “the customer is always an asshole”. I think we’d all agree this is probably not the best outlook on customers, but its funny to see how many businesses act like they believe it even though its not explicitly posted on the front door.

My wife and I recently dined at a moderately upscale Tapas restaurant. If you haven’t had tapas, the idea is that you order several smaller dishes (2 to 3 /person) so that everyone gets to try a little of everything. Since I spent several years living in Hong Kong, I equate it to Spanish Dim Sum.  I’m not a yelper or reviewer so I’ll refrain from publishing this resaturant’s name, but I will say the overall experience left a lot to be desired. I was particularly disappointed not because the service was especially slow (which it was) or that the wait staff were not personable (which they weren’t) but because they broke every other expectation I have as a diner.

1) Don’t charge for things customers are accustomed to getting for free. This restaurant took it upon themselves to charge $5 for bread with a small assortment of spreads. To make matters worse, if you wanted more bread it was $1 for another small loaf. I’m all for profit maximizing firms, but if I’m used to getting something at no charge, I probably value that item less than its actually worth.  The appropriate customer centered offering would have been complimentary bread, and $5 for the spreads. Chances are I would have paid for the spreads to get the most out of my dining experience, and it would have gotten the meal off to a much more positive start. 

2. Be the product expert. If I ask a question as basic as “which of these items would you recommend”, the appropriate response is NOT “I don’t know, I haven’t tried those”. Our server’s excuse was that the restaurant regularly updated the menu. Frequently changing/updating your product offering does not excuse a lack of product knowledge.  If you’re in a customer facing role, you are the perceived sales person, as such I expect you to be a product expert (or at least somewhat knowledgable).

3) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. A twenty minute wait can feel much longer than that, especially in a restaurant where you can see other people eat while you wait.  That said I’ll never knock a restaurant for slow service. Variation happens. What I will knock is the inaction that occurs when customers wait uninformed. A good example of handling this the right way is Tesla motors. Their $100,000 electric car has a very long waitlist. To keep customers engaged during the waiting process, Tesla has exclusive online communities for “owners” with exclusive access to videos, webisodes and other content. This creates heightened anticipation which justifies the wait. In my experience customers are generally forgiving. If I’m waiting, just recognize that I’m waiting.

…And for crying out loud, give me some complimentary bread.

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  1. #1 by samkale on May 13, 2009 - 8:20 pm

    What, no mention on the blogroll? I’m hurt …

    • #2 by Kris Kaneta on May 13, 2009 - 9:51 pm

      Sorry man… I thought you were on there. I will add you thusly.

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