Customer Service Failures that Kill Your Business

Is your customer service less than extraordinary? You want to fix that, now. I know that I harp on a bit about good customer service techniques, but the truth is that you have too much competition in the food and beverage industry to fail in even one aspect of your business. Here are two customer service failures, as well as advice about how you can avoid them in your own business. 

Failing Something Simple

As I was walking around Chicago’s Loop the other day, I got caught in a crowd of teenagers. The teenagers were complaining in that way that teenagers do; as if they’ve suffered an outrage that should never have been inflicted on any member of the human species, but especially not on them. Enough bad talk about teenagers, we were all in the same boat at one point and adults were kind enough to indulge us our selfishness. Now that I’m an adult, I suppose that I must pay that favor forward. The interesting thing about the complaints I heard on the Loop were their subject.

“All I did was order a coffee with cream and two sugars!” the teenager was saying.

I didn’t dare sneak a look at her (it’s an unspoken rule that you do not make eye contact on the Loop), but I imagined that she had long, curly, platinum blond hair and was wearing the latest Abercrombie & Fitch clothing. I side-eyed her, and confirmed that she was surrounded by four friends. “It’s not like it was anything hard,” she continued, “but the counter-person couldn’t even get that right.”

Her friends made sympathetic teenager-ish noises, like “I totally know what you mean. I mean, OMG.” (Yes, the one friend said the acronym letter by letter.)

“But when I got the coffee, it had no cream, and it only had one sugar. I mean c’mon. How hard is it to make a freaking coffee?”

My first thought when I heard this was “Yeah, teenager, with your age group’s amazing service skills, I’d like to see you do better” …But then I realized that actually, Teenage-Girl had a valid complaint. That was some really bad customer service.

I won’t tell you which mega coffee chain she was talking about (though it wasn’t Starbucks), but I will tell you that I decided not to go there that morning and spend $2.19 to get a medium coffee with cream and no sugar. If they messed up my order, I’d miss my CTA transfer, and I certainly didn’t want to drink creamless, sugared coffee.

Your takeaway: Word-of-mouth is much more powerful than you think it is. And customers remember the details of a bad experience far longer than they remember a good experience. Train your servers and other front-of-the-house staff to deliver an outstanding customer service experience every time. 

A Quick Save

To avoid bad word-of-mouth, you don’t just have to worry about getting an order wrong, you also have to worry about getting it to your customer on time. I recently ordered Chicago pizza and a bottle of red wine, delivered straight to my door.  After I made the order, I got a delivery confirmation. Unfortunately, I would have to wait almost two hours for my food… but since I was just sitting at home that was okay with me.

An hour and a half passed, and I received no delivery updates. Another half hour passed—and there were still no updates. Finally, forty-three minutes after my food was supposed to arrive, I was panicking. I had verified that the credit card was charged, and at this point, it was almost 11:30 at night. I was very hungry and I was tired.

Suddenly, just as I’m looking up the number to cancel the order, my doorbell buzzes. It’s the delivery guy, with my wine and a hot, yet slightly soggy deep-dish pizza. As I collected the damp pizza box from the man, I was all ready to deliver a searing invective about late delivery and unacceptable service. But the guy beat me to the punch.

“This was unacceptable,” he said, apologetically. “And you’re amazing for having waited this long. I really apologize for the delay, and I promise that it won’t happen the next time you order.”

He smiled and winked, saying, “Hey, by the way, good choice on your wine.”

Although I received bad service, the apology was real and it was heartfelt. I’ll think twice about ordering late-night delivery from them again, but I won’t think twice about recommending their pizza to friends.

Your takeaway: You don’t have to give your customers special discounts to make up for bad service, and you don’t have to expect that they’re  lost cause for repeat business. A kind and honest apology will usually do the trick when your customer has faced a minor annoyance from your establishment. 

The Big Picture

Ensure that great customer service is on your menu, and you won’t have to worry about lost sales from bad word-of-mouth due to small annoyances. Pay attention to the details about your guests’ orders, and school your staff regarding great customer service techniques. Remember that customer service is your real recipe for success.

Photo licensed by eFile989