I was scheduled to have dinner with a colleague and a client recently, and my colleague and I arrived a few minutes early, due to my client finishing a live interview for a national radio broadcast from the car. The two of us decided to order a glass of wine and chat until she was done. A few minutes later, my client entered, and I could see by the look on her face that she was very disturbed about something, as I was very familiar with the expression.
She began telling us that she frequented the restaurant many times over the years, so she knew that when she arrived and had to complete her phone interview, she needed to park away from the the valet area. However, as she parked momentarily, the attendant came over and began banging on her window when she wouldn’t respond to him parking her car. She became very upset by this occurrence, and upon completing the interview, she asked to speak with the owner of the restaurant. He was in a meeting, so the manager came outside and was dismissive of her frustration with the behavior of the attendant. By the time she sat down with us, she told the server that she would not need the menu, and that we needed to find another location for dinner.
Being the solution-oriented person that I am, as well as knowing the owner and his wife, I wanted to make things right for my client. I asked the server to find the owner for me, but my client was determined that she was not planning to stay, regardless. This was actually the second time in a month that I had received that type of response from her on service that was less than exemplary from service providers that I suggested, so admittedly, I was a bit bothered. However, I’ve learned to respect, and agree to disagree with the opinions of anyone in and beyond my personal and professional space.
The challenge with these situations is that my client and my colleague who agreed with her are not alone in their actions. You may never get another shot at not only making a first impression, but maintaining a lasting relationship with your customer base. Your service culture should not only encourage customers to continue to patronize your business, but to provide positive endorsements and referrals. Unlike my client, I would never walk away from an establishment without insisting upon calling out the excellence in their service offerings. As a business owner, I wouldn’t want to be penalized for how a staffer or consultant poorly handled a situation without being made aware of it, and given the opportunity to provide a remedy. Alternately, if a service provider is notified and still not willing to expedite the level of service that I expect, then I have no problem, as my client so eloquently put it, voting with my feet (walking away).
Creating an environment of excellence in client service is the best investment you can make into your business. As I repeatedly stated in my years of business, it’s not that the customer is always right, it’s just our job to make them feel like they are.