They say that a customer who has a good experience will tell two people while a customer who has a bad experience will tell ten. I want everybody to tell everything. is a 100% independent site

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

As originally appeared in The Telegram June 11, 2013

I was happy to receive a few more messages in the past couple of weeks from customers who wanted to share their good service and bad service stories. I also heard some customer pet peeves and managed to get myself out to dinner with a dear friend, were we found a heartening practice in a local restaurant that I am happy to share with readers here.

First of all, back to one of my favourite topics: weddings. Christine, who goes by @Christine_V_C on Twitter, sent me an email relaying the excellent experience she had at her sister’s wedding at Clovelly. A real impression was made by staff there, who added an unexpected personal touch by giving the children in the bridal party fancy fluted glasses for their juice to make sure they wouldn’t feel left out during the toasts. The staff also went out of their way to ensure that non-alcoholic drinks were discreetly poured for the bride, so as not to ruin the big surprise announcement of her pregnancy planned for later in the evening. I thought that these small details were wonderful examples of making a client and their guests feel truly special on their big day.

On the other hand, reader Vivian shared some of her own pet peeves in an email, answering a question that I asked recently about whether my expectations for customer service were too high. She said that folks in the industry should be more thoughtful and consistent in thanking their customers, and that more attention should be paid to the length of line ups, especially when staff members are clearly available in the store.  She gave an example from an experience she had at Piper’s, where a single cashier was left to take care of of a particularly long line of frustrated customers.

Vivian writes:

The other staff ignored the long line and kept on with their other work. Finally, I asked for more cashiers to come to the checkouts and then they did. Some of the other customers were very grateful to me for speaking up”.

While it’s great that staff came to the rescue when asked, it’s unfortunate that initiative wasn’t taken to clear things up in the first place. She also noted something that I have often thought about-- it does seem that many people take issue with the level of service they’re receiving, but so very few people actually speak out. I’m glad to hear that someone else is of the same mind as me when it comes to making our customer needs and expectations known.

Speaking of speaking up: as I mentioned above, I was out for supper with a friend this week where we proved that making your concerns known can indeed make a difference. You see, sometimes we receive great service and it is memorable, like Christine mentioned in her email. In my opinion, something that can be even better than a good experience is a bad experience made right. And this is exactly what happened to my friend and I at Gracie Joe’s.

We decided to go for an early supper last week and I suggested Gracie Joe’s. The relaxed atmosphere was lovely. My soup and salad was delicious, but my friend had less luck. After her first menu choice was unavailable, she ordered fish cakes. Unfortunately, her order of pan-fried fish cakes was served cold.  When the waitress arrived at our table for the standard check-in, my friend told her the problem with her meal. Immediately an apology was offered, the plate was taken away, and a new one was brought back, again with an apology. This was the bare minimum that I would expect in any situation where a diner’s food was incorrectly prepared. But the waitress went for more than just the bare minimum - my friend’s meal would be complimentary. Not just the fish cakes, but the whole meal. We made no request for this and it was not required; it was a sincere attempt to make up for their mistake in preparing the order. Now that is what you call good service!

But, of course, if a bad experience made right is good, a bad experience ignored is definitely worse. Compare my experience to the complaint I saw on Twitter last week, where a follower’s little son got sick all over his dinner at a local restaurant. In this case, the staff offered nothing and the customer left feeling slighted. I’m not saying that every mishap should be recompensed with a freebie, but there’s some consideration to be given to the fact that in one of these cases, the patrons left happy while the other patron told over 2000 locals on Twitter about having received the “worst service EVER”. The outcome could have been more positive if just a little extra attention had been given to an uncomfortable customer. Hopefully the owner, who is now aware of the situation, sets a higher expectation for staff in dealing with such incidents in the future.

Thanks to all those who sent stories, pet peeves and suggestions this week. I’d love to hear more thoughts on customer service in all kinds of local businesses. As always, if you’ve had an unforgettably good or memorably bad customer experience, please share by tweeting @ishopandtell or get in touch via email.