At Your Service: You messed that up, too?!
By Russ Dantu
By Russ Dantu
I’m sitting with two customers at the Mr. Mike’s restaurant in Airdrie, Alta. Let’s call them Dee and Bee. They are just two of about six people I deal with each and every year from that company and they are a nice-sized customer for me. My main contact had been let go when COVID hit and wasn’t being brought back, so Bee had taken over that person’s role.
I always find it a little unnerving when you lose the person you’ve dealt with for years and they are replaced with someone you don’t know. Rebuilding that trust is difficult and sometimes, these individuals have their own contacts that they’d prefer to use. Luckily, Bee and I got along right from the start and everything has gone smoothly with her ordering. Dee has been ordering a small amount for her annual conference for years, and the other four order for their large conference or their individual branch needs.
Dee has food allergies and lots of them. This is why I just ask her to choose somewhere because it’s easier than me going down a list of 20 restaurants and Dee asking 100 questions about the food they serve and how it is prepared. I ask many of my customers to choose where they’d like to go because it is about them, not about me.
So, we’re sitting in the dining room at Mr. Mikes. Our waiter is also the host as he had two waitresses call in sick that day (we didn’t know that he wasn’t a waiter until late into this luncheon). There is no one there when we arrive, and even when we leave, there are only about six tables being served.
Dee informs the host/waiter that she cannot have seafood or anything that may be cooked in the deep fryers if they are used for seafood, like french-fries. She is also lactose intolerant and allergic to seeds and a plethora of other foods and spices. He says, “Hey, you’re the first ones here so the grill is clean and no seafood has been cooked so far.”
Dee decides to have a burger on a plain bun with a pickle, lettuce and tomato. “Hold the cheese though, please. It doesn’t agree with me.”
For being the only table there, the meals take a very long time. When they finally come, he places the plate down in front of her. A nice burger with plain bun….and fries all over the plate. We all look at him and say, “Umm, Dee cannot have fries.”
“Oh crap, I told the chef that. Let me check.”
Two minutes later, he comes back with the burger and a salad. Dee smiles and then takes the top bun off just to check what is on the burger and… you guessed it….cheese.
We call the waiter back over, “Umm, Dee said no cheese.”
“Oh crap, I told the chef that. Please eat your salad and I’ll get a fresh burger cooked. I’ll go and check.”
Fifteen minutes go by (only one other table in the dining room). We flag down the waiter. “Hey, how long before the burger will be done?”
He looks at us in horror. “It should be right away. Let me check.” I worry that he has forgotten to reorder but he comes right back out with a burger that isn’t exactly hot off the grill. It must have been sitting there for five minutes or so but Dee says it was warm enough.
Then she asks for more tea. The waiter comes back with the coffee pot, fills Bee’s cup first and then proceeds to fill Dee’s cup, which is half full of tea. “Umm, I’m drinking tea!”
By this time, the waiter is thoroughly disheartened and shook up. I burst out laughing. “I guess everything that could go wrong is going wrong with our table today!”
He laughs as well and then apologizes, “I am so sorry. It’s not supposed to be like this. I am the host, not a waiter. Two waitresses didn’t show up today and I’m waiting for a replacement to help. I’m not looking after you like I had hoped. We want happy customers and I haven’t done that with you. Let me make it up to you with a free dessert and I’m taking Dee’s food off the bill.”
We cut him some slack, have a good laugh and finish our lunch without ordering dessert as the meals had taken long enough to arrive and we all need to get back to work. When he brings me the bill, he brings over a $25 gift card for Dee and gives a heartfelt apology. He then hands me a $10 gift certificate as well for the trouble. I, in turn, give it to Bee, who lives in Airdrie, which puts a smile on her face.
So, here’s a few things to put on the “let me check” list from this story:
- Always be present. Be so focused on what you need to do to make your customer’s experience a positive one that nothing will get in the way. Our poor waiter struggled with this.
- When things go wrong, don’t pass the burger. Take ownership of it. We weren’t dealing with the chef, we were dealing with the waiter. He blamed the chef twice for inaccuracies in the order.
- A sincere apology is in order when things go wrong. Our waiter did this well.
- Make it up to your customer as quickly as possible. This will hopefully leave some sort of sweet taste in their mouths. Our waiter also did this well with the gift cards and removing the one meal from the bill.
- Cut people some slack. This is if you are on the receiving end of a bad experience. Several factors added to the stress of the waiter that day (and it wasn’t because he was young and inexperienced – he was in his 40s and been in the industry for quite some time). We didn’t know at first that he wasn’t the waiter or that he hadn’t waited on tables before. He was thrown into a situation where he was trying his best. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and mistakes happen because we are all human. If nobody died, is it really necessary to cause a scene or say something that would make the server continue to have a bad day? Try and find the humour in it.
- Take your customers out for lunch as a thank you. Good things can come from doing this. You get to know them on a more personal level, you get to build up more trust and sometimes it leads to more business. When we left, Bee said to me, “Let’s connect in the spring. I do order some items from another company but I’m not happy with the way I’m being treated. I’d like to work with you on those items, moving forward.”
Take care of yourselves, your staff and your customers!
Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. Visit russdantu.com.