Since When is Poor Service the Customer's Fault?

After running several errands, my husband and I stopped at a local chain restaurant for dinner Monday evening. We typically eat at the bar as there are several TVs lining the header of the bar, and its provides a great way to catch up on the day. We noticed very quickly that the service was slow, but we waited patiently for the server to move in our direction. As we waited, I started observing the bar area and there was one server handling the area. The bar area seats 30 people and there were 15 people seated in the bar totaling 9 parties. It was clear from the body language of the server that she was growing frustrated. The server made her way to us and took our drink order, gave us menus, and proceeded to tell us that she was swamped based on the number of people she had to take care of leaving us with the underlying impression that the service was not going to get any faster or better. I watched her communicate the same message to the rest of the parties sitting at the bar as she served drinks and took orders. (By the way, she never delivered food. Another server from the kitchen delivered the food when it was ready. And, her customer population did not grow the entire time we were there.)

Talk about setting up expectation! I looked at my husband and asked him, 'Wonder what she would do or say if she had a full bar of customers to serve?'

Often times in the restaurant industry customers make an immediate contribution to a server's compensation. I wonder if in any of this particular server's training anyone shared that concept with her. Her attitude and behavior clearly communicated that the 15 of us were too much for her to handle and quite frankly an inconvenience to her evening.

This story is an example of situations that happen every day and it is unfortunate on two levels. The customer expectations were not met let alone exceeded impacting our decision to return and the server dramatically impacted her financial success based on her own inappropriate attitudes and behaviors. Not a good experience for the customer, a possible loss of the customer for the restaurant, and a personal financial loss for the server.

There are two great articles in the March issue of T&D magazine highlighting Chick-fil-A's views on developing employees, developing future leadership, creating customer loyalty, and being innovative. Dan Cathy, the company's COO states, "Our sole source of capital is customers. That's it." Chick-fil-A has reported their 42nd consecutive year of sales growth and the restaurants aren't open Sundays.

I don't think it really matters if we are talking about restaurants or any other industry. Dan Cathy is correct. Customers are every business's sole source of capital. Every team member and every contributor inside your organization directly impacts your organization's relationship with your customer. The culture of true customer service and creating customer loyalty is in Chick-fil-A's heritage.

What does your organization need to do or do differently in order to create an organizational value of exceeding your customer expectations and creating a loyal relationship? Have you ever quantified the financial benefit to your organization? I encourage you to evaluate the answers to these two questions, as it may be an enlightening exercise!

Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in helping businesses and individuals achieve high levels of excellence and success. Learn how at or contact RAC directly at 800.799.6227.

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