Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Customer Service Fails


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Last night, the restaurant where my wife and I had dinner failed.

Nothing catastrophic or life-threatening—they merely forgot to take our order. Whoops!

In short, we sat down, ordered drinks and meandered our way through the menu, attempting to make the ever-present restaurant decision: what to eat.

After some 30 minutes or so we began to realize our server may have forgotten about us. We both looked around anxiously trying to spot her (and then catch her eye). Eventually she did make it over to our table, apologizing profusely. She them quickly took our order and even managed to get some fries out to our table within a couple minutes.

While it could have been easy for us to get hurt and take it out on our server, the reality was that it was not entirely her fault. We came to find out that she was working both sides of the restaurant, on a busy Friday night, and our particular table was not in her normal section. When I found this out I started feeling sorry for her. What a crazy work night!

At the end of the day, someone higher up the management chain messed up. Either not enough servers were scheduled, or too many bailed, or our server took on someone else's shift, as well as her own, or even some other management mixup. But no matter how you slice it, our server was over-booked, which leads to mixups, mess-ups, and failure.

While restaurants certainly see the value of well-managed customer service employees, every business is in the business of customer service. From selling food to families to consulting CEOs on marketing to making trades on the stock market, there are clients involved. And whenever there are clients, there is customer service.

And how do you avoid customer service failures? Obviously training is crucial—you can serve a client well if you don't know what you're doing—but scheduling and managing the account load is just as important.

If you have a business where the client is king and you want to build long-term relationships, make sure your staff are not overloaded.

That's great customer service.

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