The Future of Customer Service

the-ritz-carlton-cancunThe Ritz-Carlton Cancun

I am in the process of writing a book about customer service. I was worried I’d forgotten everything after my 6 month hiatus, but as I write my ideas down I’ve discovered I haven’t. It’s a great feeling to see my ideas transform into first concepts, then chapters, and hopefully soon a book. One I hope will become reality in 2016.

As part of the process, I’ve been reading other books about customer service. The best I’ve read so far was about the Ritz-Carlton experience. After recently staying at a Four Season’s in Vail, I have seen first-hand the next level of service offered at luxury hotels. Where else does a guy re-fill your full water of glass with ice cubes, just so your drink will stay cool?

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is giving feedback to stores/restaurants to see how they’ll react. Last night though, I didn’t have to give any feedback. I experienced instead a Ritz-Carlton style recovery at Fleming’s Steak House in Livonia, MI.

I’ve had a bad experience before at Fleming’s. On our anniversary a few years back, Rich and I went in for the 3 course prime-rib special. It’s an excellent deal that is now offered on Mondays. You get a salad, prime-rib, side and dessert for the price of your entree any other days of the week.  Imagine our surprise when we arrived at 6pm, only to be told there was no more prime-rib?  Worse yet, the waitress refused to substitute any other entree in its place.

I purposely created a scene as I slammed my menu and vowed I’d never step foot in Fleming’s again. She didn’t care. But the managing partner did. He found out about our experience when I filled out a form on Fleming’s web site. He not only paid for our next meal there (to our surprise) but also said to use the generous gift certificate he already mailed us another time instead. That’s what service recovery is all about. But in today’s age, since my issue was not handled at the point of occurrence, Fleming’s risked me going on social media and blasting them in the interim.

This time I didn’t even have a chance to complain. Fleming’s was running a special in their bar that their happy hour prices, which includes several appetizers, was going on all night. So we arrived around 8:30p, but were told they were out of the only 3 appetizers I was interested in. When I got the waitresses recommended replacement, I didn’t like it. I didn’t make a big deal out of it and said I was okay eating it. So, imagine my surprise when the manager came over and told me how sorry she was. Not only did she bring me a box of truffles, but she also gave us a $25 gift card and said she’d cover our meal. I thought she just meant mine, but when the bill came she also covered Rich’s and 3 drinks we ordered! This time, the wait staff was invested in our satisfaction and went out of their way to involve management to make things right – really, more than right.

Creating a culture of service isn’t easy. But, Fleming’s has gone a long way towards their goal of getting there.

Every year for the kids and my birthday, we always order chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting from Busch’s in Plymouth, MI. As everyone knows, there’s nothing a diabetic wants more than tons of sugar on their birthday. This year Josh’s cake came out lopsided. The bottom layer was not lined up to the top layer, making the cake look caved in on one side. It still tasted delicious, but I decided to write their web site about the issue.

The next day I received a call from the manager, who was not only apologetic but also asked me to come to the store so he could “take care of me”. I told him the cake was great and I’ve calmed down since I sent the feedback, but he still insisted. When I got there he not only gave me a gift card for the cake but he also rounded up the amount $3. Of course- having a perfect cake would have been a  better outcome, but his genuine care for my situation meant something. Busch’s clearly realized that although they were losing money at that moment, they’d gain it back with increased loyalty and brand engagement. Something I think many of us  in the service industry should think more about.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s