The Eagle Blog

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!


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6 thoughts on “Defusing Client Issues

  1. When La Zia Maria opened in Goudhurst the residents of this wonderful little village were delighted..
    News soon got around that the Arestaurant although looking like it could be on Fulham road certainly did not have the service or food expected.
    Obviously living only 200 meters from the restaurant both myself and my girlfriend had to try it out.
    We have been three times, I would love to say that I have gone back because it is infact as good as any top Italian restaurant pretends to be but instead I go back because of a morbid disbelief that a restaurant can actually be this bad.
    The food is below average for any Italian restaurant, you would honestly get better pizza in Pizza Express and better pasta in Cafe Pasta. This is however not its worst point, the food is exceptional compared to the service.
    On our first visit the manager spoke only to me, he did not acknowledge my girlfriend who knows a lot more about wine than I do, but very time she asked a question he looked at me and answered. As the restaurant had just opened it was packed but instead of the buzz of happy customers all you could here was the Italian waiters arguing at the top of there voices much to the embarrassment of the diners.
    Unbelievably we went back! The second visit was on a cold December evening. La Zia Maria like most of the houses in Goudhurst is listed so there are many, many ‘cold corners’. We were seated in an empty restaurant (the word was getting around) in one of those cold corners. After we had ordered I asked the waiter if it would be possible to move to a warmer table as the wind was literally whistling through an open chimney straight at us, our waiter then gave m a rather superior look and told me that the other tables were reserved for four people… The restaurant holds around 60 people, it was 9pm and it was mid week in a restaurant with a bad reputation. We sat in our cold corner for the rest of the meal with not another person coming through the door.

    My last visit was this evening, I decided to get a take out pizza.. Surely this could not go wrong.
    It went like this….
    ‘Excuse me do you do take away pizzas?’ a long pause
    ‘Yes’
    ‘erm could I have a menu’ another long pause
    ‘Yes’ yet another longer pause where the waiter stared at me until his friends seated at the bar gave him the laughs he was longing for.

    The waiter who then gave me a menu and disappeared leaving me at the bar with his appreciative audience but not even offering me a drink.

    I looked into the restaurant at a table of four people the only customers in the restaurant. It was probably there first and last visit.

    After about ten minutes the stand up comedian/waitor came back. My appetite had gone I asked for a beer, only to be told that we do not serve beer, he told me ther were two pubs in the village if I wanted beer, his audience laughed and I walked out to his punchline…

    ‘but they dont do pizzas!’

    His audience at the bar gave him a standing ovation and I left feeling sad, but a least knowing I will never, ever go back.

  2. When La Zia Maria opened in Goudhurst the residents of this wonderful little village were delighted..
    News soon got around that the Arestaurant although looking like it could be on Fulham road certainly did not have the service or food expected.
    Obviously living only 200 meters from the restaurant both myself and my girlfriend had to try it out.
    We have been three times, I would love to say that I have gone back because it is infact as good as any top Italian restaurant pretends to be but instead I go back because of a morbid disbelief that a restaurant can actually be this bad.
    The food is below average for any Italian restaurant, you would honestly get better pizza in Pizza Express and better pasta in Cafe Pasta. This is however not its worst point, the food is exceptional compared to the service.
    On our first visit the manager spoke only to me, he did not acknowledge my girlfriend who knows a lot more about wine than I do, but very time she asked a question he looked at me and answered. As the restaurant had just opened it was packed but instead of the buzz of happy customers all you could here was the Italian waiters arguing at the top of there voices much to the embarrassment of the diners.
    Unbelievably we went back! The second visit was on a cold December evening. La Zia Maria like most of the houses in Goudhurst is listed so there are many, many ‘cold corners’. We were seated in an empty restaurant (the word was getting around) in one of those cold corners. After we had ordered I asked the waiter if it would be possible to move to a warmer table as the wind was literally whistling through an open chimney straight at us, our waiter then gave m a rather superior look and told me that the other tables were reserved for four people… The restaurant holds around 60 people, it was 9pm and it was mid week in a restaurant with a bad reputation. We sat in our cold corner for the rest of the meal with not another person coming through the door.

    My last visit was this evening, I decided to get a take out pizza.. Surely this could not go wrong.
    It went like this….
    ‘Excuse me do you do take away pizzas?’ a long pause
    ‘Yes’
    ‘erm could I have a menu’ another long pause
    ‘Yes’ yet another longer pause where the waiter stared at me until his friends seated at the bar gave him the laughs he was longing for.

    The waiter who then gave me a menu and disappeared leaving me at the bar with his appreciative audience but not even offering me a drink.

    I looked into the restaurant at a table of four people the only customers in the restaurant. It was probably there first and last visit.

    After about ten minutes the stand up comedian/waitor came back. My appetite had gone I asked for a beer, only to be told that we do not serve beer, he told me ther were two pubs in the village if I wanted beer, his audience laughed and I walked out to his punchline…

    ‘but they dont do pizzas!’

    His audience at the bar gave him a standing ovation and I left feeling sad, but a least knowing I will never, ever go back.

  3. We had a great visit to the lovely town of Goudhurst. We enjoyed a nice pub meal and we had some delicious baked goods in a little cafe there. La Zia Maria is however a poor advertisement for your town. I would have hoped they would have cleaned up their act by now, but clearly they have not. La Zia Maria has my vote for one of the worst restaurants I have EVER been to, in any country. Sorry you had such poor experiences, tell everyone you know!

  4. We had a great visit to the lovely town of Goudhurst. We enjoyed a nice pub meal and we had some delicious baked goods in a little cafe there. La Zia Maria is however a poor advertisement for your town. I would have hoped they would have cleaned up their act by now, but clearly they have not. La Zia Maria has my vote for one of the worst restaurants I have EVER been to, in any country. Sorry you had such poor experiences, tell everyone you know!

  5. You have my sympathy – I live in the village too and have used the place once, a few years ago now. I was a regular at the previous establishment on the site and spent many hundreds of pounds with them and would have continued to use the place were it not so mediocre under the then new management.

    A great pity because it seems they have now run the place into the ground and it is likely to be converted into a house. The local authority had refused the “change of use” which would allow them to do this but I read that they have now won a “planning appeal” and have the necessary permission to convert.

    Perhaps they were deliberately running it down? Who knows. Appalling timing though with house prices dropping and the loss of an amenity for the village, at least if it were in competent hands.

  6. You have my sympathy – I live in the village too and have used the place once, a few years ago now. I was a regular at the previous establishment on the site and spent many hundreds of pounds with them and would have continued to use the place were it not so mediocre under the then new management.

    A great pity because it seems they have now run the place into the ground and it is likely to be converted into a house. The local authority had refused the “change of use” which would allow them to do this but I read that they have now won a “planning appeal” and have the necessary permission to convert.

    Perhaps they were deliberately running it down? Who knows. Appalling timing though with house prices dropping and the loss of an amenity for the village, at least if it were in competent hands.

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