CATEGORY: Customer Service
The other day, my friend, Paolo, shared a sad experience with a restaurant in an upscale part of town on his Facebook page. He complained about the portion size of a $3.80 ‘lunch special’. I am not disclosing the name of the restaurant, as it was not my personal experience. However, I saw the photo and I was surprised that someone in the kitchen thought that was good enough to serve to a customer.
He did a clever thing, instead of calling the manager who probably can’t do anything about it anyway (I could imagine the manager saying, “but we followed the standard weight instructed to us” or “it came pre-packed from the commissary”), he wrote his complaint on a paper napkin, took a photo of it next to the sad plate of food and shared it on Facebook. He wrote that he normally tips 10-20% but the meal he was served “was such an insult, I felt it wasn’t even worth 1%” and I had to wait 30 minutes for it! Please tell management to stop offering that (S%@!)”
He left the napkin, which eventually reached the company’s Executive Chef, who reached out to him and apologized. He wanted to invite Paolo back to the restaurant for lunch or dinner. My friend replied that there was no need for it. It’s enough that they do something about the lunch specials on their menu so others won’t have to suffer the same experience.
I’ve been a victim of too many bad customer experiences over the years to know that many organizations still don’t get what customer recovery is really about.
Do you think my friend who felt so affected with his experience and bothered to give them feedback would go back? I have yet to ask him, but if I were in his place, I probably wouldn’t. Would you?
Some months ago, I had a bad experience when I ordered from Bonchon for food delivery. My orders arrived more than 90 minutes after the call was made (they promised 45-60 minutes), plus the company’s hotline was not accessible in the two calls I had to make to follow up. Service was not proactive. They claimed the rider met an accident, which caused the delay, and there was no intention to update the customers affected. What made the ordeal worst was the rider who brought my food did not mention any accident that happened when I asked what caused the delay. He said the delay was because they had too many deliveries to make. I felt someone came up with the story that the rider met an accident to make me feel pity towards the poor rider who was just doing his job, and shame on me for getting angry for being hungry when someone’s life could have been in danger. The idea that they could manipulate the feelings of their customers in this manner made me angrier.
At the end of the day, companies with trusted names continue to fail on offering consistent customer experiences because there’s just no customer recovery system in place. So let’s say the accident did happen (I don’t need any proof of it really). If their operations had been seamless, there was no need to tell the customer about the accident causing the delay because the operations team had already planned for these unusual but realistic situations. Upon learning about the accident, the store manager would have known how many customers were affected, and how long the delay had been vs. their committed 45-60 minute wait. There was nothing in place to resolve it. Why should I suffer and receive cold food, which I paid for in full? Why does it always have to be the customer who has to bear the effects of ineffective operations? There’s no reason at all for me to continue to give them business and I don’t intend to in the future. I shared the same thoughts when I wrote the owner and their customer care department. I received calls from the company the next day apologizing and offered me food to be delivered whenever convenient.
While the thought and the gesture of both the Bonchon representative and the Executive Chef of the restaurant my friend, Paolo, visited may be sincere and only had the best of intentions, it’s not effective. For customers like Paolo and I, sharing feedback is not about getting a free meal, it’s feedback because we want them to improve. Not many people would really bother to do this, and that’s why businesses should have a strong customer recovery process for cases such as these. When you have it in place, you are being proactive, but what we see is the opposite. Businesses tend to be very reactive on complaints. It’s case-to-case and discretionary, which means, there’s no standard to begin with.
The problem I see:
- What is the point really? It seemed to me that after offering a free meal has been said, their job must be done, whether the customer accepts it or not, it’s no longer the company representative’s concern. So, is offering a free meal or a free product really the point of customer recovery? The answer is a big NO, because by offering it, it doesn’t mean you were able to recover that customer you just lost. The point of customer recovery is to make that customer come back as a paying customer and even tell other people how amazing you were at regaining back the trust.
- Give the customer dignity. I could remember being offered a free meal 3 times in the past as a response to giving feedback for bad service, and I did not accept any of those. Why? The company does not make it easy for me to do it. Let’s go back to my Bonchon experience, the representative said just call him if I want some Bonchon food delivery sent to my home. Why couldn’t he just say, “Ms. Patel, would you be home for dinner tonight? May we send you our Bonchon food delivery? We do not wish that your last experience with us was a sad one, and we sincerely would like to make it up to you and to show our appreciation for taking the time to send us your feedback.” This is what giving the customer you lost some dignity. Don’t make him or her go through the awkward process of having to avail your offer of a free meal. If you really want the customer to come back, send him or her a Gift Certificate which he or she can avail of any time at your establishment. Make it an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
Perhaps you would ask, was there ever a time I accepted an offer as part of the company’s customer recovery effort? Yes, with Makati Diamond Hotel. They did it very well, made me feel respected as a customer and there was no awkwardness in having to say yes to their offer for a free stay (this experience deserves its own post).
It’s always easier to not see the experience from your customer’s perspective, but that is a decision one must make when you know you’ve been given a second chance and you thank your lucky stars that you do have a shot at earning back your customer’s respect and trust or lose that customer forever. When you see it this way, the decision seems obvious, right? Not all customers who complain are opportunists, most of the time, people just care enough to tell you the truth.