Customer service, flexibility and a disastrous situation

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Customer service, flexibility and a disastrous situation

Today’s post is about joined up thinking in customer service and it’s impact on a disastrous situation. The post features a story that a friend of mine told me about a customer experience that he and his wife recently had at a restaurant and inn that is just round the corner from where my Mum & Dad live. You can see the story of the whole post here.

I believe their story illustrates how a little flexibility in customer service could go a long way to restore a disastrous situation.

Here’s a summary of their story:

  • My friend and his wife had gone to the Swan Inn that is part of a group of restaurants that are run and owned by the Marco Pierre White, a renowned British ‘celebrity’ chef.
  • This restaurant is an inn (UK pub with rooms) as well and my friend and his wife, there to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary, had booked in to stay the night too.
  • Booking into their room before dinner they found that there was a issue with the central heating system such that when any radiator was turned on it made a severe rattling noise. Apparently, the system had recently been serviced and the hypothesis was that there was air stuck in the system that needed to be let out.
  • Undeterred, they headed down to dinner for a pleasant celebratory meal.
  • However, returning from dinner they found that the rattling of the radiators meant that the heating had to be kept turned off such their room was cold and that any radiators that were turned on by other guests meant that the rattling was activated again.
  • This lead to a night of minimal sleep as many guests tried in vain to get some heat into their rooms causing lots of radiator rattling.
  • Remember, this was around a week ago in the UK when we were in the middle of a cold spell.
  • Following a rough night night they descended on Sunday morning to check out. They were checked out by Mark, who was very apologetic for the events of the previous night with the heating etc.
  • However, they had descended 20 minutes after the end of breakfast service (it ends at 930am on a Sunday!) to be told after they had checked out that there was no breakfast and that ‘9:30 is our brand standard’ for serving breakfast.
  • On discussing what had happened, Mark, the employee in charge, became very aggressive, was adamant that my friend had been informed about the cut off time for breakfast even though he insisted that he hadn’t been, insisted that this was their policy and that their was nothing that could be done.
  • My friends left tired and hungry.

Now, if you want all of the details then I would suggest that you go over to his blog here for the full story.

I did a little research on this restaurant and the reviews are predominantly positive (although there are some negative ones) but they are almost all for the restaurant…..mirroring my friend’s restaurant experience.

However, what struck me about this story and the possible lessons are these:

  • If you are good at restaurants and food then be careful when you extend yourself into accommodation – it takes a different set of skills – and, perhaps, it’s better to stick to what you are good at. No?
  • Take into account the whole situation. If your customer is in distress from another area of your business, they are still a customer of your business and would probably really like it if you help them even though what happened may not be your fault.
  • Manners and politeness can go a long way and can often diffuse a heated situation.
  • Just because it’s your policy does not make it always right. Sometimes it can help to break the rules to make things right.

What other lessons do you think there are here?

And, if this was your business what would you or your team have done in this situation?

Thanks to cdw9 for the image.

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