Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The problem with raising customer expectations is that they have a have an annoying habit of staying raised... Fuller's Tenant's Extra June 2013

The problem with raising customer expectations is that they have a have an annoying habit of staying raised. If you serve a well-kept and impeccably poured pint of Pride in a clean, branded glass on a quiet Tuesday lunchtime, the same quality will be expected on a busy Friday evening, even if customers are four deep at the bar and the staff are struggling to keep up.

The reality of this was bought home to me, ironically, on a quiet Tuesday lunchtime recently when I met up a couple of business contacts in West London.  Being from the barren and windswept north – well, Yorkshire – they indicated a greasy spoon cafĂ© nearby and suggested we have a coffee there.
Nonsense, I said, indicating a Fuller’s pub nearby. We’d get a better cup of coffee and a more pleasant environment in the pub, I insisted. A jocular exchange followed about the amount of time I spend in pubs and the likely condition of my liver – which, just for the record, is in tip-top shape according to my recent medical.

So, I marched confidently up to the bar and ordered two cups of coffee and a tea. The barperson apologised profusely and said that while the tea was no problem, the pub’s coffee machine was broken and they were waiting for an engineer.

We made do with tea, but in the half hour or so I was in the pub, more than a dozen customers had to be disappointed when they ordered coffee. 
The experience echoed a recent meal at pub where we were eating as a party of four on a Saturday evening. Two first choices of main course and three desserts were unavailable. Someone better at maths than me can work that out in percentage terms, but it struck me as a poor hit rate.    

Now, I completely understand that things sometimes go wrong. Equipment breaks down, food orders fail to arrive, and higher-than-expected demand empties the larder (or…ahem… the freezer).  The issue is what you do about it. A recent survey by Accenture found that 85% of people who have switched to a new bank, hotel, phone company etc. after poor service would have stayed loyal if the business had acted to address the problem properly.
Shrugging your shoulders when things go wrong isn’t enough. If you’ve let a customer down, how about offering:

·         A complimentary dessert or liqueur at the end of a meal if first choice dishes aren’t available

·         A complimentary bottle of wine next time the party eats at the pub

·         Free admission to your next ‘event’, such as a pub quiz

·         Or even just a complimentary coffee next time they  pop in   
For a relatively minor cost, you’re making an investment in customer relations that will be paying you back for years to come.

This Kitchen Porter column appears in the June 2013 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra.

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