Monday, April 19, 2010

How Do You Guarantee Good Service?

Last week my brother -in-law was visiting us. My family loves a great meal so I decided to book a table at One Market in San Francisco. Even though I live nearby I have never been to the restaurant. Since they were just awarded a Michelin Star again I thought it was a safe choice. Boy was I wrong! To sum up our experience I will give you the lowlights - we were informed that since we are not "regulars" or one of their "good customers" we would be receiving a different amuse bouche (it was awful), I was labeled "trouble" by our waiter for asking questions, the food was marginal, when we denied dessert the waiter stated "what not even a shot of Jack Daniels?" and then he proceeded to abandon our table. The woman who gave us our bill left our credit card out on the counter and never returned to our table, so we had to find and retrieve our card ourselves.

This experience was offset the next night by a very enjoyable and tasty meal at Chevalier in Lafayette. There our waiter warmly chatted with us, happily answered all our questions, and no request was a bother or an issue. It also helped that the food was fabulous and exceeded our expectations. Then yesterday before flying out to Chicago I had to make a mad dash to Safeway to get cat food. It was early morning with only one checker (interesting that they turn all the self check registers off). Of course there is an issue with the person being checked out. The line starts to pile up. The checker calls for another checker. Minutes pass. She calls again for a checker. Minutes pass. She calls for an override. Minutes pass. Then a very snide page comes on stating that the checker's pages are not understandable. The checker repeats both of her requests. The same snide and snarky page is repeated again that the pages are not understandable. The checker now resorts to her phone. Minutes pass. Then out stomps a girl who is obviously pissed at being called out from her office. She starts berating the checker the whole way across the floor. Meanwhile the line is probably 15 plus people deep. The girl never acknowledges any of the customers. Punches her code into the register and then turns and stomps back off to her office. Still no additional checkers. The checker pages once again. Finally several checkers show up. I get checked out by a sourly woman who is upset about being called of her break (at the wrong price to boot) and I am finally on my way. Do I really need to state that this is my last choice in grocery stores?

Each one of the scenarios had the potential to succeed or fail. Two failed and one cemented us as a repeat customer. We all have the ability to wow our customers. What is even more amazing is that it usually just takes courtesy, a good product and the willingness to listen.  I am sure all three of these companies have a corporate mission to please their customers. Yet only one succeeded. How do you create a company culture where every employees truly gets  and lives their mission? You can read many case studies on how the Ritz Carlton achieves their consistent world class service. Every customer interaction large or small is crucial to your company's success. How do you train and create an environment that guarantees a winning interaction each and every time?


  1. Everything I needed to know about customer service I learned waiting tables. When working with people face-to-face, always acknowledge them, especially if you can't get to them right away. People want to know you see them, that you care. This lesson has served me well in every job I have ever had, from waitress to writer. Basically, be responsive to what people need. Care deeply about what you do and you will give good customer service.

  2. Gina I think that is so true. In all of these situations the difference was the amount of care. It was obvious at One Market and Safeway they just did not care whether or not we enjoyed our experience or met our needs.