Anyone here? Hello? Learn from awful customer service.

My wife and I occasionally treat ourselves to a date night and visit a local restaurant or bar. On one night recently, we went to a restaurant at 7:30 p.m. that advertises that they are open until 9pm. With great anticipation, and a free hour without the kids, we walked in and no one said hello to us for 5 minutes. Really. Finally, the chef decided that he couldn’t take it anymore and told the owner that “there’s a couple at the door.” The owner slowly sauntered over, did not say hello, and stated, “the kitchen closes at 8pm.” It was as if she wanted us to leave. In a large restaurant, there was only one couple dining there and the first thing that the owner tells us is that the kitchen closes at 8pm!


Of course, the best scenario would have been for the owner to say immediately, “How are you? Thank you for coming to our restaurant on this snowy day. Table for two? Great. Please follow me. Would you like a table by the window or by the booth?” When we sat down, the owner should have gushed, “We have some awesome specials tonight. I especially like the Chilean sea bass special. Your server will be right with you. I’ll check on you soon to see how you’re doing.” Again, the owner would have a big smile on her face because we are customers and she loves what she is doing with her life. In addition, if she actually acted in that imagined way, we would have sent social media messages to all of our friends about how great the service was and how the food was outstanding. The food was outstanding, but the first impression and the last impression were awful.


Lisa and I have a great story to tell. When we were dating a few hundred years ago in NYC, we dined at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. We were having a lovely romantic meal, but the service was terrible. The last straw was when the server put our bill on the table and said, “You don’t want dessert, do you?” We’ll never forget that moment. We left a $1 tip. For good to awesome service, we tip from 20-30%. The server added a zero to that $1 tip and walked off with a $10 tip. Of course, he was fired because it wasn’t the first time that he cheated customers. But that, “You don’t want dessert, do you?” always resonates as one of the worst dining experiences, ever.


At this local restaurant, with the terrible first impression and outstanding food, the last impression was equally awful. After we finished our entrees, the server put down the bill without asking us if we wanted dessert. I really, really wanted dessert. I secretly ate all of the incredible food, but not too much, so that I would have room for dessert. By that final action, the restaurant lost us as regular customers. In addition, they lost out of an additional $15 of revenue if we had purchased dessert. Finally, they lost out of the many potential customers that would have dined there because they trust us.


What should you learn from this experience?

1. Watch the front door of your business like a hawk. Attack people with kindness.

2. Educate your customers and make it easy for them to purchase goods or services from you.

3. Share with customers/ clients everything that you love about your business. If you have difficulty doing that, find a business that brings you joy.

4. Hire people who are hungry to grow their lives and your business.

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