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Defusing Client Issues

Customer service ... what does that mean to you? Does it mean always doing what the customer wants you to do? I think not ... but it should mean always being courteous and respectful towards your customer, and maybe even treating them the way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.

We eat out a lot! While on my recent visit to England I was treated to a restaurant experience to learn from!

Our little group of 8 people headed out to a local Italian restaurant (La Zia Maria) in the small town of Goudhurst in Kent. It was 5:55pm when we arrived and the posted opening time was 6pm. "We are not open yet" says the young lady, with an air of finality! We were a little taken aback and about to ask if we could wait at the bar when another gentleman came out to tell us they don't open until 6:30pm, so come back later!

We had some discussions amongst ourselves and for various reasons decided we would go somewhere for a drink and we would come back. The experience was not good, the service was slow and the food was mediocre. We had also ordered a pizza to go, which they had failed to cook and which took another 40 minutes after we had finished our meal!

There were no apologies, rather there was the distinct impression that we were causing them a hassle! When we expressed our dissatisfaction to the owner he replied with "That's OK!" as he shepherded us out the door!

The same set of circumstances, the same food, the same slow service could still have resulted in a pleasant experience rather than leave a sour taste.

1. It would have been no big deal to let us wait at the restaurant when we arrived. There would have been no cost to them ... they would have even increased their bar sales!
2. They could easily have served us coffee/tea/water while we waited for the pizza ... there would have been a negligible cost to them.
3. They could have apologized ... it costs nothing!
4. A little care and consideration could have easily improved the meal experience ... and a little empathy could have defused the whole situation. A little extra bread while we wait and its all good!

We were on vacation and not looking for a problem but it really was a poor eating experience. That is too bad, because the place was nice, the wine list was good and it would have taken little to improve the whole experience.

The lesson we can all learn from these type of experiences is that so often it is how we deal with issues that counts with our clients, more than the issues themselves. Over the years some of my strongest client relationships have grown from a pretty "rocky" start!