Paying Attention to the Customer

This weekend my husband and I went out to eat at two of our favorite restaurants. Both restaurants are very popular; one is a pizza place and the other is a breakfast diner. This weekend was no exception to their popularity as both were filled to capacity when we arrived; but in both cases we were seated very quickly. The assigned server came over, greeted us, and took our drink and meal orders not long after we were seated. But that’s the point when the great customer experiences started to unravel in each place.

We waited and waited and waited. We saw other tables who came after us and were served before us. We continued to wait. My husband grew more agitated and his body language showed it. The waiter at the pizza restaurant saw his irritation and within a couple of minutes he came over to our table and said he had checked on our order, it had somehow been misplaced, it was now almost complete though. He apologized for the delay and said he was taking the pizza off our final bill.

The same thing happened the next morning at the breakfast diner. This time, the waitress read my husband’s body language and directly came over to our table, apologized for the long wait and said she would be discounting our bill by half. Our meals quickly followed her apology.

In both cases, it was not necessarily the server’s fault that the meals were tardy, but the servers read their customer and were empowered to take service recovery action. By taking action quickly, the servers were able to deescalate negative feelings of a customer who felt ignored and unimportant. The servers could easily have placed the blame for the late meals on the kitchen staff, the busyness of the restaurant, or even the seating hostesses who sat us at the table before they were ready. But I applaud them both, because each one of them recognized the customer doesn’t care who is at fault internally; all they care about is “did you deliver what you promised when you said you would.” Everyone in an organization is part of the Team. Everyone is responsible for the customer experience and has a role. And because the server is the frontline staff in the restaurant, part of their role is reading the customer’s emotions and making sure they are taking the appropriate actions to ensure the customer is happy.

Are your frontline staff empowered to take quick action to turn around an unhappy customer? Do all your employees know they are a part of a Team? If the answer is NO to both these questions, a good customer experience strategy would be to start here.

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