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How is Your Meal Sir?

I was reading a post on a forum the other day from a guy who was outraged by the poor service he’d received in a restaurant. The guy had gone to the trouble of typing up a detailed post describing the entire dining experience and naming and shaming the offending restaurant. I asked the obvious question – what kind of reaction did he get from the restaurant manager? His answer: he hadn’t complained as he hadn’t been asked. The restaurant in question has not only lost a customer AND endured a very public bashing but they are most likely completely unaware that they’ve done anything wrong. That could be any of our businesses!

It is absolutely vital that you never assume a customer is happy, you’ve got to ask.

The worst possible scenario for a business is not knowing why a customer has changed provider-if you don’t know what’s wrong how can you fix it? The onus is on the business to monitor the relationship, not the customer. In the first instance, when you’ve completed a job/made a sale you should always check the customer is happy and if (s)he is, ask him/her for a testimonial. If (s)he’s not happy find out why and offer a solution. It doesn’t end there, satisfaction has a tendency to fluctuate so you need to ensure that you’re asking your customers regularly if there’s anything else you can do for them or if there’s any way you can improve the service you’re providing. This requires a time investment but is not something you can let slip.

Thing is, doing it for the sake of it won’t work either, if someone thinks you’re only going through the motions you’re not going to inspire confidence. I’ll go back to the restaurant scenario, how many of you have been in a restaurant when a disinterested waiter asked “How’s your meal?” while walking by, avoiding eye contact and clearly just wanting to finish his obligatory rounds? It doesn’t exactly open the door to an honest conversation so more often than not you’ll say ‘fine’ regardless of whether it is or not, because you know this guy isn’t going to care either way! Your customers are the same-nobody likes to think of themselves as a box to be ticked off a list so it’s important that you invest the time and passion into blowing your customers away. So you’ve got to mean it. And show you mean it.

Helping to find a solution for the customer is as important as asking about their happiness. A complaint is an opportunity to improve. Really listen to what the customer is unhappy about, then work together to reach a solution. Many businesses will offer a discount in response to a complaint but offering a discount can be like sticking a bandaid on a deep wound-it’ll keep it covered for now but the wound will still fester underneath! It’s the lazy way out and unlikely to prevent a reoccurrence. (Plus I firmly believe that if you need to offer a discount maybe your service wasn’t worth the original price but I digress…) When you have a complaint, a solid problem to work on, you should work closely with the customer to generate solutions that will solve the problem permanently. Then you should think about what other customers may have been affected by the same issue and offer them the same solution-that’s being proactive and will be appreciated. Plus it will ensure that the customers who didn’t like to complain (and that’s quite a few) are no longer suffering in silence.

The message is simple, invest in your customer management – it’s as important a job as new business development and can really contribute to making your business the best it can be.

Remember, unhappy customers are dangerous so don’t create them!

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  • I’m a “divil” for this – I base a journey on the fastest time I managed it before (normally during school holidays or a Sunday) which is soo wrong – have learned to base my journeys on a longer time, and enjoy the 5 or 10 mins to wind down, even just sitting in the car, listening to the end of a song or discussion on the radio.
    Good point Derbhile 🙂

  • Excellent tip Derbhile and so very true, always have a realistic idea of how long a journey or task should take and then add another 10 or 15 minutes to the time for the ‘unforseen’ circumstances such as traffic, road blocks, delay etc.

    And like Elaine said once you arrive on time (or have completed your task in advance) you can use the extra time to simply unwind…. personally I like to use this time to take a short walk or make a cup of tea (if I’m indoors)….

  • I love your comment Barney and its true that sometimes we do ‘tend to operate at 120 miles per hour’…. but travelling at that type of speed can have fatal results if we have to stop suddenly.

    You have wonderful ways to unwind and recharge; I also like Mozart although I adore Achille-Claude Debussy… 😉

  • Its comments such as this that make writing worthwhile and I’m happy that somewhere in my post a personal message was reconfirmed for you. You said something very true in your comment and that’s “it’s scary to slow down, scare of losing”…. I think so many people believe that by slowing down you somehow miss opportunities but very often the opposite is true 🙂

    I wish you every success in your personal endeavors.

  • Did you get a call back for the next ‘Rush Hour’ movie Paul? 🙂 (That comment made me giggle)

    I hope you had a wonderful afternoon with the children yesterday and that the pavement was ‘clear’… 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the great post Catherine. I’ve certainly become more aware of the need to slow down since the birth of our first child 17 months ago. The days seem to go no-where, and I think you have to constantly re-evaluate what you spend your time on. Planning is also key, you need to be clear on what you want to achieve in any given day, month, year, lifetime.

    Easier said than done though!!!

    With that said I’m off to read a chapter of my book.

  • CMS – Customer Management System 🙂

    ASSMUNE makes an ASS of U and ME – I agree with your statement “The onus is on the business to monitor the relationship, not the customer”.

    I have been left high and dry by a well known local service provider, and am curious as to when they will “notice” or contact me about it. After reading your post, I will make contact with them myself and let them know, because I believe they can learn from their mistakes.

    It’s human nature to complain to others about a bad experience (similarly about a good experience). Rarely, do we include the said provider – so thank you for a timely reminder to become more active in providing feedback, both negative and positive, to my service providers 🙂

    Good post!

  • Lorna Sixsmith

    Great post. I am setting up a new website for my online store and am going to use Louder Voice in order to access customers’ satisfaction levels – do you think it is too much to send an email to each and every customer a few days after they have received their order?

  • Hi Margaret, You are right of course the onus is on the business to monitor the relationship and not the customer. Yet many operate a head in the sand approach, see no evil, and hear no evil. Another important point is that companies need to be proactively listening for/to customers & this is particularly relevant online. The amount of times I have heard someone say to me, we don’t want to be on twitter because we don’t want to hear or encourage any bad stuff. What is so obviously missed is that the bad stuff will be said anyway, it’s just that you won’t hear it and hence have an opportunity to correct it because you are choosing not to listen. Great post! Thanks for sharing, Niall

  • Interesting point of view – “they never asked.”. I’m going to look into adding a feedback channel in my real estate biz. Any thoughts on tools or process I should consider?

  • Anonymous

    interesting post. While I totally agree with you I sometimes find it interesting how certain “high performing” companies refuse to engage with their customers who leave feedback. I think Apple and Facebook spring to mind as examples.

  • Richie, try UserVoice ( or GetSatisfaction ( Both of them offer both free and paid versions. See here for a discussion on which is better:

  • Thanks Zuly. I’ll try these out. Which one do you use?

  • I’m not yet at a point where I can use them. But I decided to go with UserVoice when the time comes because I’ve heard more positive things about them. It looks like Bloggertone uses GetSatisfaction. Maybe they can give you some feedback on GetSatisfaction.

  • Hi Margaret, I couldn’t agree more and even if it appears that your client or customer is happy, we should all ask the question as a complaint really is an opportunity to improve!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Niall, great point about listening online-the beauty of it is that the channels are open, we just need to listen.

  • Anonymous

    Good point Frank, it’s right up there with websites without contact details and it does always seem to be the bigger players. I often wonder if these companies believe that because their product is innovative and in-demand they don’t need to trouble themselves with customer interaction…. ?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Lorna,

    I think it’s vital that you connect with all your customers post-sale to make sure they’re happy. You CAN use a 1 in 10 feedback system but you’ll miss 9 in 10 responses… You can set an email up on autoresponder so that it’s not a big task for you but shows your customers you care. I would add though that your communication should be different for first-time and repeat customers.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Elaine

  • Marie

    Hi Margaret! This is a great post! Customer satisfaction can sometimes be overlooked and it is not our customer’s obligation to let us know if we’re doing a good job unless of course we business owners or any of our employees did not live up to their expectations.

  • Brilliant post Margaret, my Mum recently had a bas service from a place she’s been using for over 30 years. She has told everyone who would listen about it….except the business themselves, and they didn’t have a feedback system either.

  • Thanks for encouraging me about the article. I’ll mention few more topic soon about Identity theft. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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