Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Customer is Always Right, Right?

The term “the customer is always right” is a very interesting American idiom. I totally agree that great customer service is imperative no matter which industry you are in. You can sell a bad product well, but you’ll begin to struggle much more quickly if you sell a good product badly. 

The thing that has always narked me about this comment is that if they are always right then we are always wrong. Right? Wrong! How can we always be wrong, what they should say is that “the customer must always feel as though they are right.” That makes much more sense. The customer should always be treated to top quality service as standard. Service definitely sells. 

People expect good service nowadays as the norm and quite right too. If you are fantastic at delivering customer service you will be successful in your business or at least you deserve to be. However, in my experience the customer will reward you with priceless one liners and no-brainer comments for the service that you give them. This, I find, is the most rewarding part of dealing with Joe Public. I'm sure that many of you in your time have had a bit of a giggle at someone else’s expense without them knowing. There is nothing wrong with that, it is purely human nature. Laughter is by definition healthy.*(Doris Lessing)

In my time, nearly fifteen years in the pub trade, I have heard and seen many things that still make me laugh today. Like the time I asked a customer how he would like his steak cooked, to which he replied simply “grilled”. That made me chuckle. A lady once complained that her steak was undercooked so we happily cooked and re-plated the steak for her, but we were then instructed that we should “over-cook every steak in future”. How would that work then my dear? We endeavour to cook every steak perfectly but as we are still only human errors occur, but at least you can correct an under-cooked steak. Of course I told her that her comments were very much appreciated and that I would instruct chef to carry out her wishes. I also remember a lady telling me that she enjoyed her salmon fish-cakes but that they were “too fishy”.

On one occasion I remember that there was a power cut in the pub I was working in at the time. Unfortunately I had to inform all the customers that we were unable to cook their food and that they would have to have a refund and return at a later date. Most people were very understanding apart from two old dears that were rather perturbed that we didn’t have a back-up generator. I wish we did have one because the electric went off again the following Friday night at 10.30pm when the restaurant was packed. Super.

There was once an instance, in the days before twenty four hour drinking, when I had rung the bell at ten to eleven as normal. After making sure everyone had been served I took the tills away to cash up at about five past. One of the staff came to the office about ten minutes later to say that a group of four blokes, the youngest being well in his forties, were “kicking off” and being very rude because she wouldn't serve them another drink. Now, I'm all for a lock in, however, I was working in a managed house at the time and such things just were not done. Now maybe I could have served them another drink if they had asked politely but the first thing they said to me when I went down stairs was, and I quote, “we’re going to write to the brewery
and see about this. You will be in bother.” Now being a young lad at the time this got me worried, but I thought about it for a minute. I replied, “I will get you the address”. My logic was that I wasn't going to get in trouble for NOT breaking the law. The funny thing was that the next week they apologised and from then onwards they were as nice as pie. So if I had done what they asked I would now be a criminal.

I find that working with the public means that no two days are the same. I would hate to have to sit in an office cube for thirty odd hours a week. The great thing is you have to talk to people and you get paid for it. I enjoy making people laugh and I don’t mind laughing at myself and that makes it all the more fun. 

However, the underlying principal is still service service service, but that doesn't mean, in my opinion, that the customer is always right. But then again I have been wrong before!

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