There is No Such Thing as a Problem
This is a concept heavily inspired by my experience as a restaurant manager. What I would encourage my staff to live by at work.
Every problem is an opportunity
Even in an amazing restaurant, with the best training in the world and every system set up perfectly, shit would sometimes happen:
- The order comes out wrong.
- A customer would accidentally be forgotten by their waiter, having to wait extra time to be taken care of.
- The food order is accidentally cooked wrong.
- A waiter would put the order in wrong.
- A tray of water accidentally drops a glass of water on the customer.
- A customer doesn’t enjoy their meal.
Even with perfect planning and extreme effort, certain problems were unavoidable. Just like they always say: “shit happens.”
The way to react to these problems was never to give an excuse. They don’t care if you are short-staffed or that the grill broke in the middle of a busy night. They want perfection, and that’s okay. Excuses were not allowed.
How we handled these problems made us so incredibly successful. The solution was always to get a manager to go by the table, so it doesn’t sound like the waiter is covering their tracks. There was no avoiding the problem.
I would tell my staff: I don’t care if you make a mistake, as long as you tell me about it immediately and try your hardest. I don’t want the details of how it went wrong, I only want to know the basics and the table where it happened.
- The floor manager would always personally go to the table.
- We wanted to go into that event without hearing the biased view of the waiter, as much as possible.
- The manager introduces themselves personally to the customs, and find out directly _their_ perception of the situation from their own eyes and words.
- The manager would always apologize, even if it was simply the customer’s misinterpretation, or perhaps their own mistake. It’s irrelevant the cause of the problem, because customers come to have a great experience.
- A solution would be arrived at immediately right there at the table.
- How do we make this right. This was called the moment of truth, the chance to turn it around.
- The manager would personally oversee the situation from that point.
- The plan of the solution was communicated to any staff involved.
- The manager would continue to follow up with the staff to make sure the solution stayed on track, as promised to the customer.
- If a 15 minute cooked meal gets screwed up, than it’s unavoidable that it would take that same amount of time to get the right meal out to them.
- The Manager explained honestly these things and not given an unrealistic solution.
- The Manager Immediately offer the customer a complimentary appetizer to hold them over.
- Once the solution was reached, visit number two happened from the manager to make sure satisfaction by the customer.
- At this point we would offer an proper way we would reimburse them. If their meal was screwed up, even after it was fixed, that item would be taken off the bill, simply for the inconvenience.
- The manager would make visit number 3 at the end of the meal, reassuring satisfaction. Sometimes an added bonus was provided: “free desserts for the table.”
- – If it ended up still being a shitty experience for the table, a complimentary gift cars was given: “You’re next meal with us will be on the house.”
The main aim was to get that customer back in the building again
This was the goal, even if it meant we didn’t make profit for this meal and the next. Even if it meant taking the fall for a mistake they made, perhaps ordering the wrong dish.
Switching Focus from Profits to Experience
- There was, at this point, zero–fucks given to money, being right, or profit.
- We called these of events “the moment of truth,” because it was our chance to turn a pissed off customer to someone who brags about us to friends and coworkers.
- The customer leaves satisfied, and they are coming back: WIN. Even if this meant losing money from the interaction.
- Pride came second to ensuring the customer came back in the building again.
- As we all know, a bad experience is roughly passed on to hundreds of potential customers by word of mouth.
- A positive experience generates less of a buzz. However, that is irrelevant, because to prevent bad word of mouth is most important.
- We would always give away for free more than any other restaurant we knew of, and were allowed to have a certain amount of complimentary percentage at the end of the day.
- If the complimentary percentage became out of normal range during a time, the message was not “lets give away less,” but rather what are ways we can improve our systems to cut that amount by having less of those problems.
Order of Focus
- Customer perception was the day-to-day focus.
- Constantly and proactively fixing the root of the problem was our week-to-week focus.
- Monthly, we would look at the big numbers, mostly to grade the scores against each other, and the management team’s effective execution of steps one and two.
Preconceived Notions are Poison
There was no thinking about “oh, that customer just wants a free meal.” However, we would keep track and if it was the customer every other week, we would take notice and give them less.
Some customers knew our reputation for giving away food and complain on purpose, but that was a small percentage compared to the customers we turned into loyalists for life.
Customer Experience Over Profit
- Even with how much we would give away, we were the largest, most successful, and most profitable restaurant group in Texas, by far.
- It was not unusual to for us to have 2 hour wait times on a Friday night, even when the next door restaurants had a wait time of 30 minutes.
- We spent next to nothing on advertising, as it was all word-of-mouth. We built a drooling fan base by consistently providing amazing experiences.
If more companies and industries were experience focused instead of profit focused, the world would be a better place. This applies to every industry.
If you wow your customers, the profits flow naturally and in larger quantities. This means having to be somewhat flexible with “policy and rules.”
For example: the maximum return-time on this product is two weeks, but we want you happy, so we will make an exception. Most companies are afraid of changing these habits, because they have lost touch with who really runs companies: the customers.
Be willing to take the hit on an individual sale, and leave them speechless and happy. I can’t tell you how many times, such as, I’ve personally switched phone companies due to them focusing on their policy, and not focusing on my happiness.They will piss me off, I will trash-talk them, and I will switch providers.
It’s ridiculously less expensive to keep up your current customers than the advertising expenses that go into finding new ones.
When the customer’s perception of your business outranks “how much can we profit this quarter,” that is when you truly maximize your business.
Summing it Up
- Good companies make money.
- Clever companies create brilliant ad schemes.
- Legendary companies are advertised for free by their own fans.
Don’t Ever Forget Who Runs Your Business
With the ease of communication, review sites, and social networks, this will continue to become more important.
From my new Google+ Page: +TheBackwardsTimeMachine