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Customer complaints happen. No matter how much a business wants to provide great customer service, there are times when the dominos aren’t lined up exactly right. The chain breaks somewhere, preventing the last domino from falling. For the most part, customers understand that businesses aren’t perfect. It certainly helps when the customer that is having a poor experience is familiar with any challenges that prevent the experience from being great. Take for example a story shared recently by ijreveiw.com, about a couple that had a less than stellar experience at a restaurant.
The couple were quoted in the article saying: “service tonight sucked. [It] took 20 minutes to get water, 40 minutes for an appetizer and over an hour for our entrée. People all around us were making fun of the restaurant & how bad the service was.” In many cases, an experience like this would be blamed on the frontline employee – namely the server. However, as both customers had previously been in the service industry, they recognized the challenges that the server was facing and empathized with him. To them, it was obvious that the issue was being short staffed, not the server. They realized that, despite the fact the poor service was not the server’s fault, he was the one that would suffer when it came to tips. Because of this, they decided to do something different… they left the server a $100 tip on a $67 bill. Why? They observed the server rushing around apologizing to every customer; doing his very best to console his tables, while maintaining his composure. The couple had each suffered in the server’s shoes in the past. They realized that he was actually doing his best. They thus wanted him to know that they appreciated his efforts.
Too often, when businesses receive complaints, management’s initial reaction is to put the employee at fault. Assuming the customers in this case were correct; and that the restaurant was understaffed; the evening in question was an organizational and management failure, not the employee’s. In fact, the employee did everything he could to placate the customers. And what’s more, at no time was it reported that, in doing so, he shifted blame onto the establishment. That’s an employee that should be cherished and rewarded, not blamed!
There’s no telling what the cause of the understaffing was at this restaurant on this particular night. There’s also no way to know whether it is a reoccurring problem. Perhaps they had some employees quit or call in sick. Regardless of the circumstances, the fact is that, on this night, the dominos didn’t fall properly and the customers paid the price. But not just the customers. A very willing and hardworking employee also had to suffer. How frequently this occurs will dictate whether or not the business itself will suffer. However, one thing is certain and that is that on the night in question, management was presented with a test, and they failed miserably!
The next time you get a complaint or poor review, take a moment before casting blame. Consider whether there were underlying causes that prevented an employee from providing an excellent customer experience. Reflect on the steps the employee took to satisfy the customer, despite the challenges presented. Take a look to see if it was an organizational breakdown, or an individual failure. Use these times as a way to improve your business, change your practices, or take action to prevent these types of situations from recurring. When it’s not an employee’s fault, make sure to let them know that it was you who failed, and not them.
Sometimes, when customers have bad experiences, it’s not only the customer that deserves an apology, but also your employee.