Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Say Only the Good Things People Need to Hear

From time to time a blogger will present a criticism of a product, process or experience.  Hopefully the intention is to serve others with a lesson learned, and ultimately an introspective evaluation keeps we service providers humble, knowing that, except for the grace of God, there go any of us.  Sometimes criticism is malicious.  This criticism isn't.  It's about a bad business practice, and not about the place in which it occurred.

I guess it's better than Tweeting
Today's businesses are but one Tweet away from closing the doors.  Any idiot with a smart phone is a critic.  Sometimes is seems like every idiot with a smart phone is a critic.

When do you concentrate on excellence in product and service, and when do you sacrifice quality and service for cost?

Recently my son, a Business major in University, received incredibly bad service from a well-known local restaurant, the gist of it being that his take out order was mistakenly prepared a full hour before the requested pick up time.  The deficiency in execution came in at least two parts.  First, the order taker argued with him about exactly what time the pick-up had been arranged, and took as proof of her own infallibility her history of apparently never having made a mistake.  Secondly, the restaurant protected their costs by determining the hour-old food to still be edible.  It wasn't, and that presumption leads to two sorrowful conclusions.

First, that merely qualifying as "edible" is their culinary standard, and secondly that the restaurant, for the sake of saving about $3 in food costs, placed its reputation on food that had been sitting under the heat lamp for over 60 minutes.  In effect they determined that even though this customer would base his opinion of their restaurant, his recommendations and all future dining experiences on this one meal, rather than make a fresh order they were willing to risk everything on hour-old, cold, and dried out food.  The good news in all this bad news is that they saved a few bucks in not having to prepare it twice.  The bad news is that they will never have to bother making my son or his friends a meal, ever again.

And that, my friends, though I'm sorry to report it, is nevertheless painfully good stuff we all need to hear and learn from, we in business.  We can't fix that place, but if we take our eye off the ball for even a moment in our own operations, there go any of us.  We walk a fine line between watching the bottom line and serving the customer, but even when our priority is necessarily the bottom line, it can't be obvious to the customer.

We don't need to know the name of the business.  Does it matter?  It could be any of ours, no matter what we make or do.  The error was executed by a front line employee in a culture that finds it's source and support at the top.

To deny that it could happen to any of us is the first step towards closing the doors.

The final word is that my son did complain to the manager, and after a full day of reflection(!), she offered to replace the meal on his next visit.  He took her up on her offer immediately.  There was no apology.

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