I was actually the first customer. Literally the first person to give them money on the day they opened.
Recently I stopped by for a quick beer. I encountered a new policy that was (in my opinion) ill-conceived and improperly applied. I won’t bore you with the details other than to say I decided to keep my money and leave.
On the way out I spoke with the owner.
Here’s how the exchange worked:
Me: “I come her pretty often. I was your first customer and have probably recommended your place to 30 people.”
Owner: blank stare. (This is where I would have inserted, “Thank you!”)
Me: “Okay, here’s what happened and here’s why I think your new policy is ill-advised.”
Owner: explanation for the policy, mostly logical.
Me: “I understand your concern and why you’ve implemented that policy. I’m not a restaurant operator but I know a fair bit about the business. I think the policy makes sense in certain situations, but not in what I just experienced.”
Owner: “Well, they got it wrong (referring to his staff). (This is where I might suggest something like, “Let’s go back and get you your beer. I’ll straighten this out and make it right.” Bonus points for, “Let me buy you a beer for your trouble.” But that is graduate level common sense.)
Me: “O.K. This is a classic lose/lose. I wanted a beer and didn’t get one. You wanted my money and didn’t get any.”
Owner: no response.
Exit, door right.
It isn’t usually that hard to make an unhappy customer happy. Sending any away unhappy is just such a bad idea. It is just so…unprofitable.
All customers, at some level, want three things when they provide feedback:
1. To be acknowledged. I could have gone anywhere, but I came to you to give you my money. Now I’m offering a suggestion. Acknowledge that.
2. To have their feedback accepted. You don’t have to agree with me, but accept that I have valid reasons for complaining. An explanation is great, but an excuse is not.
3. To be appreciated. I gave you feedback because I’d like a reason to think you want me to come back, or maybe even to make it right. And “thank you” goes a long way.
I’m continually astounded at how someone can be smart enough to get financing, build out a space, hire and train employees, prepare and serve food and beverages and yet miss the fundamentals of customer loyalty.
So the next time somebody gives you feedback, remember: acknowledge, accept and appreciate.
In short, make him or her glad they took time to talk to you. Find out what went wrong and make it right.