When Mistakes Happen, You Need To Be Able To Make Things Right….

I GET customer service.

But some people do not.

And I understand that in every business, despite the very best intentions of owners and employees, mistakes and errors get made, and things go wrong.

The aim in service businesses is simple.

You need to make sure that errors are as infrequent as possible.

And you need to make sure that on those occasions when your business does happen to drop the ball, that you have the SERVICE RECOVERY PROCESSES ready and easily implementable so that your business can MAKE THINGS RIGHT for the customer in an effortless and seamless manner.

When your business can do this, on those odd occasions when things do not go to plan, while your customers may complain about the service defect that just happened, because your business made things right, those customers affected will be in awe at the way your business handles the defect through its service recovery processes….

A business’s service recovery systems and the way that business seamlessly swing them into action are what defines them as a business that cares unconditionally about their customers.

So let me tell you about this restaurant that Jayne and I went to last Saturday night…

There was a glaringly obvious service failure. [SERVICE DEFECT]

And there were several opportunities that the owner had to apologise, and did not. [ SERVICE RECOVERY]

Jayne and I were out of town for the weekend, playing golf, watching some footy, and visiting friends. The regional city that we were visiting was abuzz with people because of the football game that was on, the annual town show was on [livestock and produce], and there were a significant number of historians visiting for an annual historic society weekend.

So, on the Saturday night after some socialising with guests at our hotel in the early evening, Jayne and I went out to dinner….

Our booking was for eight o’clock. We arrived at the restaurant at 7:55pm, and the place was very busy.

And so, on our arrival we said to the lady who greeted us:

“You look very busy tonight. Is it because you’ve got the Show and the football and the Historic Society in town?”

And the woman replied very matter-of-factly:

“No, it’s like this, every Saturday night.”

Anyway, we were passed to a waitress, and shown to our table, which was upstairs on a mezzanine level directly above the kitchen.

We sat down, and the waitress returned with menus, and took our pre-dinner drinks order of two gin and tonics.

She returned again to let us know that for one of the types of gin that we had ordered, they had run out of, so we ordered again.

When she returned with the gins, we then ordered our meal.

The menu was Italian-style tapas food. The choices were either meat or vegetarian. There was no fish. So choosing was easy.

We decided on three dishes. We ordered the wild mushroom arancini, [3 pieces], with pickled mushroom, grilled mushroom, truffle mayo and parmesan. We also ordered a Funghi pizza, with sugo, buffalo mozzarella, fresh herbs and mushroom. And from the specials menu, we chose the Vincigrassi, a wild mushroom and spinach lasagne with truffle butter and fried kale.

Our meal was three plates. To be shared.

Now this was all done and ordered within the first ten to fifteen minutes of our arrival. So, by 8:10pm, the orders were placed with our waitress, who was very efficient.

We also ordered a bottle of wine at the same time that we ordered the food.

The wine was delivered to the table shortly after as an [already] opened bottle with two glasses, and just put down. We still were drinking our pre-dinner drinks.

It wasn’t served or poured, we weren’t asked to taste it. Nothing. Just put down. No words. Nothing.

Well, fast forward to 8:45pm which is 35 minutes later, and the mezzanine level where we are sitting is now only two thirds full…. our waitress returns, and we ask her if it was going to be much longer for our meals, because we had noticed that another table of two people who had arrived after we had, had been served three lots of food servings, while we hadn’t received anything.

And her comment was:

“Oh, they haven’t got to your order yet?”

Anyway, our order arrives at our table, all three dishes at once, one on top of the other, ten minutes later at 8:55pm.

And tapas-style is meant to be a “grazing” style of dining…

Then at 9:02pm, while we’re still trying to negotiate these three large shared plates, we are told that the kitchen staff were going home, and we are asked [persuasively], that if we wanted a dessert then we had best order straight away.

And we then said that we weren’t in a position to order dessert because with all this food in front of us we weren’t able to say AT THAT POINT IN TIME whether we would be physically able to fit the dessert in.

Or whether we would even feel like dessert after finishing our shared dishes.

We pointed out that this was because we had been waiting so long for our tapas dishes.

The waitress said:

“Oh, that’s okay.”

Anyway, five minutes later we are asked the same question again, with the suggestion that the kitchen is closing. And still we had plenty of food in front of us still to get through.

At this point we mentioned to the waitress that we were a little disappointed that nobody had come up from downstairs to explain why our meals had taken so long, especially when we had seen this later arriving table of two diners being served well before we were.

The waitress said that it had been a busy night, but we told her that the lady who greeted us had said that every Saturday night was like this, and so they should have been able to manage this level of occupancy.

[And at this point the upstairs mezzanine was not full].

Anyway, we didn’t order any dessert. We did not feel capable of enjoying the rest of our meal, and our wine, AND A DESSERT ON TOP.

When our three tapas dishes were finished our serving plates were taken away, but our very small, eating plates were still left on the table with knives and forks and used napkins on them. And they were left on the table for a considerable amount of time after, while we finished our bottle of wine. It was 9:55pm when these plates were finally removed from our table.

For that last 35-40 minutes, we sat there, enjoying the rest of our wine, but still with no sign of anybody coming up from downstairs to check on our table, and our state of well-being.

Here is our summation:

There had obviously been an error made.

It appeared that our food order had not been processed, and that is why our food arrived all in one go, and late. [Remember our wine order had been taken at the same time as our food order, and our wine had arrived at our table well before our food did].

But to think, that after all this, we were left sitting in virtual “restaurant Siberia”.

Nobody from downstairs came to see how we were…. The silence was deafening.

And as time wore on, and as no bill for our meal had arrived at our table [maybe they don’t bring bills to the tables?], we decided at this late hour to go downstairs to pay. When we brought our concerns about the events of the evening to the attention of the lady who had originally greeted us on our arrival, her reaction was not one of apology but rather one of excuse after excuse after excuse.

Her first comment was:

“We have been very busy tonight.”

I reminded her that when we arrived she had told us that  every Saturday night was like this, and so if them being very busy was the case then they should have anticipated this busy-ness and had the appropriate plans and processes in place to make sure that this sort of service failure didn’t happen to their diners and patrons.

The woman just brushed my comment aside.

We pointed out that the wine had just been “dumped” on our table. And we felt this was not good service because just previously, the same [male] server had come up and had spent a reasonable amount of time chatting with another table of diners.

We asked why nobody even came over to us at all during the evening, despite the waitstaff being made aware that we were unhappy with the very delayed service of our food.

And the woman said:

“Oh, we’re not fine dining, we don’t pour the wine here.”

[I would wonder what the wine manufacturers who are on the wine list would think of that?]

Anyway, there was no apology for the poor service.

And there was no apology for the severe attitude.

We said we thought that somebody would have just come up to let us know what had happened.

And she said:

“Well I’ve got a bad back I can’t get up the stairs.”

To which we thought well, get somebody else to come up and give us a message as to what had gone wrong.

When we shared our story with other people at the hotel where we were staying, they all said:

“They’ve forgotten your order.”

And that’s what happened.

For whatever reason, they forgot our order.

And for whatever reason, their service recovery was non-existent and their excuses were laced with bucket loads of attitude.

It was pretty poor to think that we waited 45 minutes to be served three tapas dishes all at once, and then got hounded for dessert orders while we still had the three plates there in front of us.

I thought tapas-style meals are meant to be served and consumed in a grazing manner. And this certainly wasn’t grazing.

I certainly was disappointed in the lack of service recovery and I was extremely disappointed in the attitude of the woman who greeted us and farewelled us.

And because of that I would write that this restaurant is pretty pathetic, in terms of service systems. I wouldn’t be rushing there for any special occasion.

The dishes we had were very nice, and very well presented. But this restaurant  does need some customer service skills to back up its food.

And that customer service was very, very lacking in this restaurant. And for a restaurant in a country town, which should be looking out for repeat business from out of town visitors, who would be returning regularly to that town, they need to do better.

Anyway, That’s it. One star from me. And that’s too many.

What should have happened:

As soon as the restaurant had become aware of the error [delay in processing the food order] someone from downstairs in the kitchen should have come up and owned up to the service defect.

And if that had been done, then probably everything would have been ok.

But nobody did fess up.

Instead they made excuses….

If they had have fessed up, then they could have massaged a small offer into the desserts menu, or offered a glass of dessert wine, as a gesture…

Something easy to offer, low cost, and easy to do.

But they did not.

And to leave guests who have been disappointed on their own, to stew about their disappointment, well that’s just dumb.

Sometimes an apology is all that’s needed.

In your dental practice:

When things go wrong, sometimes all that’s needed is an apology, and a small gesture, to make things right again.

It doesn’t take much, but it often does take something little to fix something that went wrong before it blows up into something much bigger.


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