Saturday, 22 January 2011

We love all our guests. Some we love when they arrive and some we love when they leave!

Today's reflections on service and guest expectations.

The Market Restaurant is quirky and unusual.  The 300 year old building itself provides many challenges.  We try very hard here to exceed our guests’ expectations but we don’t always get it right. Staff are trained and empowered to take action when things go wrong. Feedback from guests is very important, however, I stress to staff that they should never take things personally and on the rare occasion that we get it wrong we do all we can to repair the situation for the guest and use it as a learning opportunity for the staff.

In a book written in 1996 by Chris Daffy “Once a Customer Always a Customer” he observes;

Satisfied Customers
  • Continue to purchase from you as long as nothing better comes along
  • Are likely to provide you with 3 to 5 referrals over their lifetime of purchasing
Dissatisfied Customers
  • Stop purchasing from you (or start looking for an alternative supplier)
  • Tell 9 to 10 people about their bad experience (2 to 3 times more than satisfied customer referrals)
  • Exaggerate bad stories
  • Tell your competition (who then spread the word to your other customers)
  • Usually don’t tell you (only about 1 in 25 causes of dissatisfaction get reported)
  • Generally don’t come back (90% never return)
Delighted Customers
  • Stay loyal to your business for life (even when there are problems)
  • Tell 17 to 20 people (about twice as many as dissatisfied customers)
  • Up to 90% become even more loyal after recovery than before the problem

The whole nature of the restaurant business is changing guests are becoming more demanding and operators are being forced into becoming more innovative with ingredients are more resourceful in trimming prices.

Most staff in this industry start off with a desire to delight the guest and quite frankly if you haven’t got that desire you won’t last long.  It is a privilege for us to share in the important moments in peoples’ lives; birthdays, the first date, engagements, Christmas, Valentines Day, Mothering Sunday, graduation, family gatherings etc.
That brings me to the hospitality industry.  I believe there are three categories of people in this industry;

1. Hospitality Professionals – those rare individuals who make hospitality their lifetime vocation (sadly in the minority in this country and rarely taken seriously). 

2. People in transition — students, actors, writers and creatives needing a job to pay the bills. 

3.  People who can’t get anything else. 

All front of house staff, however, dread the question, "So what else do you do?" Sometimes we’re not doing anything else! This is it! That question usually implies that being a waiter/ress isn’t a "real job" and that we must be doing something that’s more "worthwhile."  Whichever category there is no excuse for guests not treating them with respect.
The other day I went to collect a parcel from the Royal Mail Sorting Office on Oldham Road and whilst waiting read a notice about the Royal Mail policy of “Zero Tolerance” to staff abuse.  Similar notices are displayed in Piccadilly Station and Shude Hill Interchange.  In fact Ian Johnston Chief Constable of the British Transport Police was recently quoted as saying said: "People should be able to go to work without fear of being assaulted, spat at or abused."   Well I guess we all agree with that.
A brief search on google surprised me though because the first five result pages on verbal abuse by customers related to the NHS and brought up The Health and Safety Executive’s definition of violence at work as: - “Any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of the course of his/her employment”.  Incidents do not need to cause physical harm, and could for example include a receptionist who was verbally abused by an irate patient annoyed for waiting too long. 

It seems to me to be wrong that organisations should need policies to defend staff from customers!  Verbal and physical abuse of staff can never be justified though.  Defending and supporting staff in such circumstances is a management imperative.

Front of house staff must know their limits and must show the true picture of what they can and cannot do. Never must they give the wrong impression to guests.  As a member of the front of house team one must be sensitive and actively play a role in promoting and retaining guests and not viewed solely for attending to requests only when there is a need. FoH staff  must always be proactive and not reactive.

In a recent customer review I was described as Basil Fawlty because I attempted to support a 19 year old member of my staff in dealing with a thoroughly unpleasant customer.  As a matter of policy in over 30 years the Market Restaurant has never responded to the few negative customer reviews we have received on internet web sites until now!

This customer and his friends on the neighbouring table had purchased heavily discounted vouchers from a web based discount site. We have dealt with many such guests and the majority have been charming. Not in this case.

This customer's expectations were not met and the resulting situation was not particularly well handled. However, I don't believe that provided valid grounds for him to constantly verbally abuse staff who were trying their best to recover the situation and embarrass other guests; for no apparent reason other than to show off in front of his friends. I'm not sure if the three bottles of wine consumed by his table influenced his behaviour or not? 

There was no way to please this customer so for the benefit of the surrounding guests  I apoloised, promised to investigate and take appropriate action and invited his table of four to enjoy their meal at my expense and pay only for their drinks.  None of this was mentioned in his subsequent review.  Which he felt necessary to entitle “Basil Fawlty alive and well in Manchester”.  Quite frankly I don't know what more they expected or what he believed he achieved.  All we can do is take it on the chin. 
Until the next time!

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear, he sounds like the kind of customer you wouldn't want to return anyway. Some people are just horrid for the sake of it and alcohol and showing off for friends amplifies that somewhat!

    For what it's worth, I love coming to The Market and tell everyone about it and to come and visit!