Customer service has become an overused buzzword to describe a few mechanical things that most service employees do as they interact with you in a store or restaurant. A truer test of customer service is how the customer is treated when things go wrong. What the individual or organization does at that point of the interaction is what separates the superior individuals and organization from the average. Jan Carlzon, the former CEO of the holding company for Scandinavian Airlines, described this response in his book “Moments of Truth.”
I recently returned from a cruise with my wife on Oceania Cruises around Australia and New Zealand. One evening we were dining alone in the main dining room. We had finished our appetizer and salad and were waiting for our main course. About 10 minutes went by and our waiter came by and apologized for the delay. Another 10 minutes elapsed and his supervisor came by, apologized and indicated that a number of orders had hit the kitchen at once and that our meal should be arriving shortly. After about 10 more minutes our entrees arrived with another set of apologies. The food was delicious, as was coffee and dessert. There was another set of apologies as we left the dining room. My wife and I did not give it another thought. We were on a ship; we weren’t going anywhere.
The next evening we were dining in one of the specialty restaurants. We were eating our salads and an entourage came in to the restaurant and stopped at our table. A man introduced himself as the head of food and beverage for the ship. He apologized profusely for the events of the evening before. He said, “I hope you understand after cruising with us for several days that this is not how we do business here.” We told him we appreciated his apology and that everything was fine. He indicated that someone on his staff would be calling the next day to invite us to a “special” lunch. We finished our meal, which was delicious, and returned to our cabin. On the table by our sitting area was a platter wrapped in decorative cellophane that held six chocolate-covered strawberries. The strawberries were decorated with white and dark chocolate. My wife and I both thought that was a nice touch.
The next day, someone from food services called to invite us to a special lunch the following day. There were about 25 other guests and about six of the ship’s department heads in the restaurant. The head of operations got up and introduced himself. He indicated that each of us had been affected a few days before by the kitchen incident. He apologized and said that the lunch was the company’s attempt to apologize and make the other situation “right.” Each table was hosted by one of the ship’s department heads. The food was delicious and the wine flowed. Everyone left with a very positive feeling about Oceania Cruises.
Let me contrast this with an experience closer to home. I am a relative newcomer to Wilmington, having moved here three years ago in July. As a newcomer, my wife joined the Newcomer’s Club. One of the group’s activities is a monthly dine-around experience at a different restaurant. These outings are always during the work week, not on weekend evenings. At one of these events, we had about 20 people in attendance and our group was seated at two different tables. The people seated at the first table received their entrees, finished them and had eaten their dessert before our entrees arrived. Our server was somewhat apologetic, but said the kitchen had been somewhat overwhelmed. That was that. While the food was good (a little overpriced for Wilmington, especially when you throw in mediocre service), I have not been back. There are too many dining options in Wilmington to put up with poor service.
So, what is the difference between these two experiences?
Christina Haley O'Neal - Oct 23, 2020
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