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Customer service: from zero to hero

What makes for good customer service? 

The best test in my view is how an organisation deals with a problem. It's a perfect opportunity to really show what our people are made of. 

This was put to the test recently when my partner and I had lunch to celebrate an important anniversary at a well-known restaurant in London. It’s one of those with amazing views of the city and a pretty good reputation. 

My partner had taken clients there on a number of occasions and had always received excellent service. So we were very surprised at what we experienced.

Having arrived early to have a drink before our meal we were unable to summon the attention of any of the waiting staff in the bar area. They were chatting to each other and wandering round but not attending to tables. We noticed a number of guests having the same problem and approaching the bar staff to get their attention, we resorted to the same approach. However, having spoken to 4 different people 45 minutes passed and we had still not got a drink.

We went to our table and after complaining yet again our drinks arrived, but no gin and tonic for me instead a ginger ale appeared! Not a complex order to confuse after 4 requests. By this stage we were completely exasperated and ready to leave and chance our luck somewhere else as we were really concerned that a special event was about to be ruined by dozy staff.

However, the restaurant manager noticed the problem and arrived bearing champagne and profuse apologies. There is a way to apologise that takes all the steam out of incensed customers and David was the master at bringing a little sunshine back into our day. We didn’t hear any excuses about new staff or any attempts to blame anyone else. He listened, agreed that the situation was unacceptable, empathised and put the problem right quickly and efficiently. I have no doubt he will also have sorted out the staffing issues in the bar area.

From that moment the service and food were fantastic and we had a wonderful time. At the end of the meal I thanked him for his attention and professionalism and he told us that our day was not over yet. He led us to a private room brought more complimentary drinks and let us gaze at the wonderful views on our own as an amazing end to our visit.

The result is that we will be back and we will happily recommend the restaurant to friends and family.

There are some lessons here for HR. Excellent customer service is something we all talk about in our organisations. However, we often lull ourselves into a sense of complacency .Because we care about customers and the service they receive we assume  it permeates through every level of our business, But service can only be determined by the receiver and we are not always so good at understanding what is feels like to be a customer of our organisation.

We all mistakes in our businesses.  We get things wrong and we fail our customers, but as the magical David can teach us, if we can put things right , if we can regain customers trust when things go wrong we create loyalty from our customers who will take the trouble to be advocates for the business.

We need to use the skills of our own extremely experienced staff to train others and develop their skills. Every restaurant in the country needs a David, and I hope his organisation value him highly.  He is worth his weight in gold and his approach will have a positive direct impact on revenues. 

So find your David, use them to set the quality standards and reward them properly and watch your business succeed.


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