5 Business Lessons Learned From Bad Customer Service


In my last post,
I described an example of a very bad customer service experience my
wife and I experienced just over a week ago at the Hard Rock Cafe in
Atlantic City. I’m happy to report that the assistant manager responded
promptly to my complaint on the Hard Rock Facebook Wall and followed it up with a phone call. 

In today’s world where most businesses tend to make excuses or ignore
their customers,  I’m pleased to say at least one Hard Rock Cafe
manager differentiated himself.  This incident offers many important
customer service skill lessons for business.  Here are what I believe
are the top 5 lessons learned.  What do you think?

1. It’s the experience, stupid.  Guests will
tolerate even mediocre food if the experience is good.  We have many
choices when we dine out but find ourselves choosing just a few.  What
differentiates our favorites from the rest aren’t cheap food and drink.
It’s the comfortable feeling we get when we’re greeting as “family” or
“special guests” every time we visit.  Likewise, we’ve never returned to
restaurants that had outstanding cuisine but lousy service. In this
case, the manager ignored our experience and put her attitude and work
operations ahead of visitor safety and comfort. 

2. Be proactive.  Employees should be on the lookout
for dangers and risks for their guests.  Although my wife’s purse
wasn’t in the open, it wasn’t secure either. Some might argue that it’s
not the restaurant’s obligation to ensure that guests protect their
personal belongings.  But it should be their responsibility to ensure
our visit is uneventful, if not enjoyable.  We’ve been guests in other
restaurants where the wait staff or host scanned the floor, then stopped
by the table to recommend that we hide our personal belongings and
remove the “easy target” sign from their backs.  It’s not a perfect
system or a guarantee but we always appreciated that the restaurant was
looking out for us and creating a safe environment  – even for just a
few minutes. 

3. Seize the moment.  Don’t wait for a customer to
complain.  For me this one’s a no-brainer.  What could have turned into a
major inconvenience and ruined weekend worked out thanks to the
observant guest at the next table.  For just a moment, he was a “hero.” 
The Hard Rock Café staff blew one of those rare opportunities to
recognize a guest for going above and beyond.  The good will and
positive press generated by such a moment would have far exceeded any
disruption to a manager’s busy schedule or loss of a few dollars by
comping their meal.  Instead the “hero” walked out quietly, and we left
angry and unhappy…with a negative story to tell.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. 
To paraphrase, “Hell hath no fury like an upset customer scorned.” In
the past, it was said that a person would tell 3 other people about a
good customer service experience…and 13 about a bad one. Today, you can
add a few zero’s to the bad story scenario.  In the past, I might have
written a letter to the General Manager or CEO of Hard Rock Café. 
Today, all I needed to do was post my complaint to a social networking
site like Facebook and user-review site like Yelp. Instead of 13 people
hearing about the bad experience, my potential audience reached hundreds
of millions with a few keystrokes. What’s worse is that what happens on
the Internet, stays on the Internet.  A bad experience posted on the
Internet doesn’t go away after it’s resolved, but lingers on the
Internet ad infinitum. Don’t ignore this new reality.  Thanks to social
media, the company no longer controls the brand; customers do.

5. To err is human, to recover divine.  An apology
is a good way to have the last word (Author Unknown).  One of the most
frequent questions I get when speaking to business people about social
media is “what should we do about negative comments posted on our blog
or social networking site.” My response: thank them!  A study of why
customers switch companies revealed that only 4 percent of dissatisfied
customers complain. For every complaint, 26 more customers were
unhappy.  Worse than that, from 65 to 90 percent of the unhappy but
non-complaining customers would never buy from the company again. Social
media can be a very valuable customer service recovery strategy.  A
study for Travelers Insurance a few years ago showed that persuading
people to complain could be the best business move a company could
make.  While only 9 percent of the non-complainers would buy from that
company again, 82 percent would buy again if they complained AND the
company resolved the problem.  Even for customers who did complain but
whose problem wasn’t resolved, more than 50 percent were willing to give
the company a second chance.

Good customer service starts with attitude. All the training in the world won’t save an employee with a bad attitude.  And a positive service attitude
can’t be trained.  But a good customer service strategy can turn a good
employee with a positive attitude into a great one and maybe – just
maybe – help a company successfully recover and retain a customer from a
bad service experience.

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