Memorable Moments In Customer Service
What Would You Do If You Had Bad Service?
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Four Tips And Insights Into The World Of Customer Service
I have worked in customer service for over twenty years as a cook, chef, waiter, bartender and restaurant manager. I have seen customers and service of all varieties and have developed some personal insights into each of them. What I have recorded here for you all is four stories, recollections if you will, of customer service experiences I have had during my time as a restaurant manager and what I have learned from each one.
Sometimes your customers will surprise you and do the unexpected. Sometimes a random customer can become a good friend. Sometimes you will learn that the customer is not always right, and sometimes they will touch your heart in ways you never see coming.
The Customer Is Always Right!
My Best Customer Service Experience
The very best moments in customer service are often when one customer serves another. It is a testament to the nature of the original business when it attracts people with the heart and spirit of the Websters. Until the day I met them officially they were little more than strangers to me. I had seen them in the restaurant where I was manager once or twice but had not yet made their acquaintance. Since that first night we have become good friends
On the night in question I was managing the floor of a busy seafood restaurant in a popular NC mountain destination. The Websters, Fran and Steve, were sitting up at table 42, near the window and the front door. Its not one of my favorite tables but some people like it. It does have a certain coziness and is by the large front windows which open in the summer time. They had not been there long and were eating an appetizer and drinking their IPA and top shelf margarita (Its amazing what you can remember sometimes) when a young couple came in, obviously on there way to the prom.
It was a beautiful spring Friday night, the air was warm, the trees were blooming and downtown was crawling with people out and about enjoying themselves. When the young couple came in we were already on an hour and a half wait and getting more names all the time. They did not have time to wait and left, the young lady unhappy. After about 30 minutes they came back, I expect they found he same sort of wait at every restaurant in the area. They decided to wait for a table and tried to make the best of it.
Taking Customer Service To The Next Level
- Customer Driven - Customer Service is often customer driven. Its their needs you are trying to fill.
Now, the Websters are over there, next to the front door, watching all of this go down. Unbeknownst to them I was trying to work something out for the two but they took the situation into there own hands. They moved to the bar so that the kids could have their table. They had their server help them move. We made them a spot at the bar, got them some fresh drinks and helped the youngsters get comfortable and enjoy their night.
The story does not end here though. The Websters took it one step further and bought the kids dinner. When I found out about this I bought the Websters dinner. It turns out that the Websters have kids of their own. Between the two they have 3 high school age teens who were also out on prom. Since that night I have seen the Websters many times and have even brunched with them at home.
A Funny Look At Customer Service
The Customer Is Always Right?
Now they say that the customer is always right but that is really not the case. Sometimes customers are just rude unhappy people. I hate to say it but it's true. In one case an evening started off with a group of four sitting up in the front section. For all I knew they were just an average table. As their dinner progressed I began to hear little snippets from the staff. Now I don't allow grumbling, especially about customers, but the server and the support staff mentioned that she was being rude and that it might be bothering other tables.
The dinner progressed without incident and the four left. Little did I know that the lady stiffed the server and the server decided it was a good idea to follow her out of the building. The result of that decision is the basis for a different hub, perhaps one titled "How to get fired from serving". Needless to say the confrontation did not end well. The server came back inside, told me what happened and I thought that was the end of it.
Customer Service And The Angry Guest
Well, the lady in question made it out to her car and then decided to come back and let me know her feelings. When I saw her come back in I knew trouble was on the horizon but I had no idea. She tongue-lashed me, the server, the restaurant, the food, her experience and everything else. I could not get a word in edgewise. All I could do was stand there, in shock, and mumble how sorry I was. This went on for I don't know how long until she finally blew herself out. I tried to make things better with tools I knew usually worked. My attempts merely made her angry again.
- Customer Service And Collateral Damage- Sometimes customer service means taking care of collateral damage in the form of other customers or guests who share in a bad experience.
The whole time her husband was trailing right behind her. When she finished and left I think she expected him to be in tow but he stayed back for a minute. He stood there and looked at me, and then he said "I'm so sorry that you had to experience that but I get to see it everyday". I was stunned. I still don't really know all that she said to me but I can only imagine he meant when he said that to me. I asked to wait a minute, I made him a gift card big enough for two and told him to come back sometime with a friend.
Its Always The Quiet Ones Right?
Its always the quiet ones that cause the most trouble right? It seems so sometimes anyway. On this night it was the case. A woman came in around 8 pm, quietly and by herself. She sat at the bar and drank water for over an hour. I know this because the bar tenders told me. It was another busy night, the restaurant was packed and the area around the bar was standing room only. By the time I had a chance to devote some attention to speaking with lady she had gotten up and left her seat.
What I did not know was that she had followed someone into the bathroom and was harassing her with ridiculous drunk talk and discussions about religion. She made her way back to the bar and this is where my story really begins. She was what I will call middle aged, a little older than me, maybe 40-ish and a soccer mom type. She was dressed in khaki shorts, hiking shoes, shirt and sun hat that made her look ready for a day out doors. As I got to know her a little I discovered that she had been outdoors all day attending a local school football game, had had only one drink about 9 AM and that she was completely hammered and probably blacked out already.
She Was Not Even A Customer
Apparently two of the private schools in our area have a long and historic rivalry going back many years. The two schools play a game each year and the parents tailgate like they were in college. Now I was dealing with the fall-out. She was not overly obnoxious, just a little loud and uncooperative. She kept evading my questions and suggestions and tried to turn the tables on me. She claimed to know the owner of the restaurant and even went so far as to call her a "carpet bagger" (she is from out of town but she's really nice).
- The customer service message here is that sometimes customer service, especially in a restaurant, means maintaining a calm and pleasant atmosphere. A rude, drunk or just plain loud and obnoxious person can ruin the night for a whole room full of strangers.
I tried to escorThe customer service message here is that sometimes customer service, especially in a restaurant, means maintaining a calm and pleasant atmosphere. A rude, drunk or just plain loud and obnoxious person can ruin the night for a whole room full of strangers.t her outside and even went so far as to touch her elbow in an effort to get her moving. At this point she grab a hold of the bar like she was not going anywhere and I knew the situation had just escalated. I pulled out my big gun, the telephone and 911. Nothing scares a drunk like the chance of getting arrested. She tried to call my bluff but did it half over her shoulder as she made a bee-line for the front door. She left the restaurant and walked down the street yelling out that she was calling the owner, that she was a business owner too and she knew what customer service was. I never once dialed the number.
Greatest Comment Card Of All Time!
I received this comment card from a young lady out on a first date. As a restaurant manager I have come to appreciate body language and like to speculate on what people are doing. This couple was obviously on a first date and the body language was not good. Her comment card, and I quote, said....
"Everything was great tonight except for my date!"
Customer Service and Community
Sometimes customer service is about community. You do not have to focus service only on your guests. Community involvement goes a long way towards building a happy and well served customer base. Take for instance Mr. Charlie Parker. This crotchety old man must have been 95 years old when I last saw him. At one time he would come in with his girlfriend, a young lady who must have trailed him by at least one or two years. The two of them together were rude and demanding but they came in all the time.
I learned most of what I know about him from his great nephew, another semi-regular at the restaurant. Putting the two pieces together was one of those random things, just talking about the right thing at the right time. The nephew has many stories of his uncle and the "girlfriend". It turns out that Mr. Parker was a big Wall Street executive, I think with American Express, and old mountain money. He had been retired for many decades, was bored, lonely and suffering from age.
Customer Service And Community
I knew that Mr. Parker liked to drive his car from himself and his nephew, a decision his nephew was not fond of. The car was a shiny red Mercedes two seater convertible. We learned to recognize it on sight. One evening, deep in the heart of winter, we were having our annual staff Super Bowl party. The restaurant was closed but we were inside having a good time. Mr. Parker came up to the door and stepped inside, waiting for a seat. I had to let him know we were closed that day but he could come back tomorrow.
- Customer Service/Community Service - The two go hand in hand. The best businesses and sources of customer service strive to members of the community.
So, about 45 minutes later Mr. Parker comes shuffling back in, wearing his house slippers and looking a little wind blown. I went to him to see what I could do. He sat down in our waiting area and told me that he could not find his car. He looked a little scared and embarrassed. I did not know what to do at first but then quickly determined that I could get his nephews number through a short chain of contacts. I called and soon help was on the way. Since then Mr. Parker has stopped coming in by himself but his nephew was still taking him, last I heard.
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