Monday, October 8, 2012

Soup and Crackers

As we celebrate Customer Service Week on October 1st through 5th, I'd like to share with you two recent experiences that I had in two restaurants.

Restaurant A was a new restaurant that opened in Downtown Duluth. I stopped by and discovered that they had some unique soups on their menu. I'm not a big soup fan, but these were unique enough that I had to try one. I ordered the soup to go, and returned to my office. They placed my to-go order in a special bag with company branding and handles. When I looked into the bag, I discovered plastic-ware that was silver in color and a small loaf of hot bread with melted butter wrapped in aluminum foil.

The soup was okay and the bread was wonderful as I love hot bread with butter. I don't ever remember getting hot bread like this in a to-go order.  I ranted and raved about the lunch for a few days when a colleague and I decided to return. We both ordered soup to go and you can imagine my disappointment when I returned and discovered no bread, but plain crackers instead. My colleague was disappointed as well.

I called the manager of the restaurant and asked, what do you serve with your soup. He stated, " We serve it with hot bread. I then asked what they serve with soup for a to-go order. He said, "crackers." I asked, "why the difference?" He stated something about crackers being easier with to-go orders.  I told him the experience I had and he didn't seem too concerned.

I expect that the real reason for crackers instead of bread was because of the cost of the nice bag and plastic-ware. It wasn't cost effective to include bread. In an effort to give a great customer experience with a nice bag and utensils, they forgot the real reason that I was there. After the first visit, I came away with a very nice surprise. I talked about it, I shared it, and other people wanted to experience it. I didn't return for the bag and plastic ware, I returned for a repeat experience. Sadly, I didn't get it. Instead I got an experience that I can get at any number of places. Soup and crackers. And, I can get that experience at a much lower cost elsewhere. I didn't go there to pay for fancy bags and utensils. Fancy bags and utensils are nice, but not at the expense of the things that really matter. Even with them, it was a soup and crackers experience.

Restaurant B was a place that I had been to a couple of times. On this occasion, I ordered a salad to go. It normally came with a soy sauce dressing. When I returned to the office, there was no dressing. The salad was actually very good without it.

I was traveling  for the next couple of weeks and later returned to the restaurant for lunch. I was warmly greeted by first name with a sincere apology for forgetting the dressing. I had completely forgot about the missing dressing. They informed me that they had been waiting for my return to make things right. They then bought my lunch that day. Wow! I have never had this happen after the fact without first having to mention the error.

Restaurant B gave me a knock-your-socks-off experience in a world where excellent customer service is rare. Yes, they may make a mistake or two here and there, but they have made a huge deposit towards my continued patronage. They have gained a customer for life.

Think about the things that you do for your customers on a regular basis. Are they routine experiences like soup and crackers? What simple things can you do to give your customers a knock-your-socks-off experience? These are all things that will raise your company to a higher level than your competitors. These small things will also gain you life-long customers.

Thanks to Restaurant B, The Zen House, in downtown Duluth for great food, and a knock-your-socks-off attitude towards customer service.

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