How Not to Appease A Customer

I feel like I’ve been cheating the last few days on my posts, relying on personal events as fodder. But I couldn’t resist given today’s story. I saw firsthand how not to deliver customer service in a situation that could easily lead to a lawsuit.

I met one of my best friends for lunch today. When I arrived she had already ordered a virgin daiquiri (the virgin part will prove important in a sec) for her and some French fries for her daughter. At 19 months, my friend’s daughter enjoys dipping anything in everything. So between sucking on the straw and dipping her fries in the daiquiri, she managed to drink/eat half the glass. My friend finished the other half, and we continued to chat over our food. About half way through, the manager appears.

Manager: “Ladies, did you put the daiquiri in the sippy cup?”

My friend: “No.”

Manager: “Well, we just noticed that your child was close to the drink and we wanted to make sure it didn’t end up in her cup.”

My friend: “Why does it matter? I ordered a virgin drink.”

Manager: “Well, if it was in a frosted glass with a black straw, it was alcoholic.”

My friend: ” She drank half of it. What do you mean there was alcohol in it? I ordered a virgin drink. She drinks and eats everything I do.”

(At this point, the manager winces as it becomes clear they are at fault.)

Manager: “Well, we think you ended up with an alcoholic drink.”

My friend: “How is that possible.”

Manager: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Where’d the mix-up happen? Did the server enter the wrong drink order or did the bartender make a mistake?”

Manager: “I’m not sure. I know you must be upset.” (Notice: no acknowledgment of any individual error will ever be made in this exchange.)

My friend: “I thought I could trust that when I ordered a drink with no alcohol that’s what I would receive.”

Manager: “I am so sorry. I know you must be upset.”

My friend: “Yes. How would you feel if your 19-month-old drank alcohol?”

Manager: “I’d be upset too.”

My friend and I agree we’ll probably laugh about this story in a few years, but she was understandably upset. Our meal was comped and her daughter appeared to suffer no ill effects. A follow-up trip to the doctor confirmed she was fine.

Watching this happen, I was taken aback at the manager’s approach. His initial attitude implied that my friend was knowingly giving her child an alcoholic drink. When it became clear that his staff was at fault, he became mildly apologetic. However, it took my friend stating that she refused to pay for the meal before he made any movement at smoothing over the situation, other than saying he was sorry.

If he’s smart, he’d do more than comp a meal. He’d offer a gift certificate, something, anything to change her perception of the restaurant. Because from now on, every time this restaurant is mentioned, she’ll share the story of how they brought her the wrong drink that she then shared with her daughter.

Now imagine my friend’s response and the story she’d tell if the manager had come to the table and taken the position from the beginning that they made a mistake. Please let us make it up to you. Here’s my card with my direct number. Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do for you. Then the mistake becomes secondary in the story compared to the apology.



2 Responses to “How Not to Appease A Customer”

  1. June 21, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    there was a case in the last few weeks when a restaurant had served up alcohol, (I think it was marguerita) instead of apple juice to a child – they’d mixed up the containers. The mother is sueing. i think that is why they can never admit anything,

  2. 2 Britt
    June 21, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Funny you should mention that…I believe it was the same restaurant chain as our mishap.

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June 2007
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