Customer Feedback:  Grill the Food, Not the Customer.

After reading several articles about a New York style sandwich shop that recently opened near our house, my husband and I decided to support a local business and give them a try.  Having dined at several newly opened restaurants, we anticipated a few hiccups in the service, but nothing could have prepared us for the comedy of errors that awaited us.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
My husband and I were greeted by an eager female waitress who invited us to sit anywhere we wanted, but then blocked us from moving forward and motioned for us to sit at the table immediately inside the door.  Despite most of the tables being vacant, we obediently took our assigned seats.  Our waitress, who I will call Trixie since she never offered her name, scurried off to get our drinks and returned quickly with two large tumblers half-filled with soda.

Know Your Product
After several failed attempts to explain the difference between a turkey club and a turkey sandwich, Trixie became flustered and went to the kitchen to retrieve the cook.  He was also stymied by the query and shouted for the owner to join in their tableside debate on the condiment content of each sandwich.  And, although unintentional, they brilliantly formed a ring around our table which prevented our escape.

Back Up Your Claim
With his confidence now shaken, my husband decided to play it safe and order a turkey sandwich with cheese.  When asked what kind of cheese they had, she replied “all the cheeses” but could only name American.  In hindsight, I wish I had spent less time contemplating the vast storage space required to hold “all the cheeses” and more time requesting a specialty cheese.  If the ingredients of a turkey club stumped poor Trixie, requesting a gently smoked camembert or an aged Gorgonzola Piccante might have caused her to faint.

Pay Attention to Detail
My husband finally ordered a turkey sandwich with only three ingredients: Turkey, provolone cheese and chipotle mayonnaise.  So imagine our surprise when he received a sandwich with bacon and no cheese at all – thus keeping their inventory of “all the cheeses” perfectly intact.

The Customer Is Always Right
When we pointed out that his sandwich was missing cheese and included bacon which he did not order, Trixie suggested that he look under the turkey for the cheese and she would not charge him for the bacon.  Upon proving his sandwich was indeed cheese-free, she apologized and returned the sandwich to the kitchen for a makeover.

Be Empathetic
During that time, the owner came by to see how everything was.  My husband explained that his sandwich was wrong but Trixie was happily remedying the error.  Rather than apologize, offer a discount or a coupon for a future visit, he said not a word, turned and marched into the kitchen – apparently to reprimand someone – leaving us in awkward silence. Did we just get someone fired?

There’s a Time and Place for Feedback
With both of our sandwiches corrected, we enjoyed a rather delicious meal.  After eating our fill, we requested to-go containers.  However, before bringing them, Trixie leaned onto our table began to grill us on what they could do better. Did the food taste good?  Were the sandwiches too large?  Did it take too long?  Is the menu priced properly? Being in the customer experience measurement business, I am a huge proponent of customer feedback, but not delivered in this fashion.  You grill the sandwiches, not the customers.

Build It Before You Brand It
As she handed over the to-go containers, I noticed they were branded with the restaurant’s logo – as were the cups, the paper napkins, and the large rugs inside the door. As I looked around, it was easier to list the items not branded with the logo.  It became apparent that the business owner had invested more in marketing (public relations, roadside banners, logo-branded everything) and less on training (product knowledge, product quality, customer service, problem resolution, and customer feedback).

Like many businesses, he focused on getting people in the door with little regard to the experience he would offer his customers – missing a powerful marketing opportunity.  If we had enjoyed a positive experience, we would have raved about it to our friends and posted to social media.  But instead, I am writing this blog as a cautionary tale.

Want to know what your customers think about your business and its service delivery?  Turn your customers into raving fans. Contact Electrum Branding and make regular customer feedback a part of your culture.