Here’s a short cautionary tale of the damage your employees, the ones on the front line actually serving customers, could be doing to your business through poor attitudes and behaviour.
Before I get to the story however I have a couple of questions for you.
Q: Have you ever received the kind of customer service that leaves you wondering how little the person who served you understands about customers?
A: Of course you have.
Q: Do you think they understand the negative impact their behaviour has not only on you the customer, but also the company they are employed by?
A: Not a chance.
If we’re honest poor service happens all the time. It’s as if we’ve come to accept it’s going to happen, so that when it does we just shrug our shoulders and move on.
But here’s the contradiction. Whilst you accept bad service as a fact of life when you go shopping, as employers or managers would you be happy if your team delivered the same shoddy customer experience? Of course not.
Hold onto that thought as I tell the tale of my most recent example of this, which in the scheme of things didn’t seem like much of an incident at all. In all honesty I was chuckling to myself when it happened as it was so minor, although it did leave me literally shaking my head. While it may seem that this example is a storm in a tea cup (a really small one), there are consequences for the company concerned despite the almost inconsequential nature of the incident. We’ll look at those in more detail later.
Let’s get into the tale of how one waitress went from Success to Sorry Service in Sixty Seconds.
Some time ago I found myself working London. I live 200 miles away, so to be sure that I was ready for a 9am start on Monday I’d driven down the previous evening, and after a 4.5 hour drive to get there I was damned hungry.
Not a problem. I was in London after all, there were eateries aplenty.
I wandered a short distance from the hotel and found myself gazing upon Byron Burgers just opposite the Shaftesbury Theatre. It looked good, it sold burgers, and being partial to a burger I was even more keen to eat there when I noticed in the window that they were posh burgers! They sounded good, it looked good, and in a flash I was in.
I was greeted and seated in seconds by a very friendly waitress. She was chatty, made me feel welcome, and was all smiles. I liked the place already, and liked it even more when I saw the range of burgers on offer. I was into a winner here! Smiles the Waitress was soon back for my order and I waited in anticipation with a rumbling belly. Once again Smiles the Waitress seemed to be back in no time with my food, smiling as always and super friendly. Let me tell you, that burger was good, the fries were great, even the coke tasted better than usual.
I was enjoying great service, great food, and for London great prices. I was even wondering if there were any Byron Burgers near where I live. Well, I was hoping so, they were great.
So far, so good. Success loomed large for Byron Burgers. I was all set to become an avid fan. I asked Smiles for the bill and she cheerfully said that she’d be back in just a moment. True to her word she came over with the bill, still smiling.
I decided to pay by credit card, and when she passed me the chip and pin terminal there was a message on the screen. “Would you like to include a gratuity?” or something similar. Well in all honesty the burger was awesome, and Smiles was nice enough, plus it was pretty cheap. But worthy of a tip? No. Which happens to be the button I pressed on the terminal. I handed it back to Smiles……… who suddenly wasn’t smiling any more. It was clear that from the millisecond I’d pressed no that I’d become a worthless inconvenience of no interest to her. A credit card receipt was unceremoniously tossed my way and a now not smiling Smiles stomped away from my table without so much as a by your leave. I love to read peoples body language. Hers told me that I was now considered to be something a dog may have left behind on its daily walk……
As I left I could feel the imaginary daggers flying viciously through the air and embedding themselves deep into my back.
That’s it. Like I said, not that big a deal on the face of it.
It is though. Here’s why.
1. You’ve just read my tale and my bet is that if you were ever going to be tempted to try a Byron Burger in future your mind will flick back to this blog post. Something will resonate in your head about their poor service and you’ll move onto the next restaurant. In fact just today a friend and colleague commented that since I’d told her my tale she’d noticed loads of Byron Burgers all over the place although she’d never heard of them before….. but because of my experience she’ll never go into one.
2. I would have been a real advocate for them if it hadn’t gone so wrong at the very end. No advocacy means no recommendations which means no extra clientele through me.
3. Lost revenue. Ok, just me on my own, not so much. But me, plus you, plus my friends and colleagues, multiplied by the many times we could and probably would have visited over the next few years. Now that’s a big number.
4. It’s not just me! I’m willing to bet that Smiles does that to every customer who dares to not leave a tip. How many times does she do this per day? Then consider points 1 to 3 again.
5. Reputational damage. You may be thinking it’s just one waitress in one restaurant in a chain. But as the old saying goes, it takes just one bad apple in the barrel to turn all the apples bad. It starts with something small, and once that becomes the norm then the rot sets in.
Will I ever eat in a Byron Burgers restaurant again? No. Not a chance. Never.
Is that unfair over such a small thing? Not at all. After all, I’m the customer, it’s my money, and my choice where to spend it. If you want my money you’d better give me great service or I’ll vote with my feet and go elsewhere.
The irony is that I really enjoyed the whole experience up until that last sixty seconds. I really would have raved about how amazing they were, but instead Smiles snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Or to put it another way. She turned Success into Sorry Service in Sixty Seconds.
Sadly this kind of incident happens all the time. Ask yourself, what are your employees doing that will persuade your customers to buy elsewhere in future? How are they turning success into sorry service. How are they costing you revenue, reputational damage, lost recommendations, lost profit and more?
My advice is this. Find out before it’s too late, because by the time the damage is done, it’s too late to find out.