Watching the death – and birth – of customer loyalty (Part 1)


Flickr: Notratched

Just back from a trip to Europe. Ah, so many juicy brand nuggets to share over the next few posts! I got to witness how a careless business turned a raving fan into a staunch enemy right over dinner. Heed these lessons, friends, to avoid alienating your best customers as well…

My husband  used to live in Oxford, England and has dreams about Aziz, a local curry house. His Quixotic quest to find a great curry house here in the States has resulted in exactly one place, in NYC. We live in Seattle, so this causes some problems. There are many good curry places here, but in his opinion, they oversalt and the flavors don’t blend quite the way they do at spots in the UK.

So with a group of friends in hand, we journeyed to Aziz, where we’ve been on previous trips. This place seems to get raving awards and reviews for its food, but among the circle, the poor service at this restaurant is widely known and joked about, but the food is very good, so they overlook it for the odd visit. However, after this trip, the restaurant lost icon status in my husband’s eyes – and the local group decided there were other great curry houses around where they could get treated better so this might be the last visit.

Why?  Here are five ways this restaurant killed their fans’ loyalty:

  1. Disrespect – Making us wait…and wait…and wait: We waited almost 20 minutes as waiters whizzed by our table, before anyone came. And even then, he only would take bar drink orders. We then waited forever and a day for the food to come. for refills and even the bill. What this says is, “You and your time are not valuable to us. We don’t need you.”
  2. Inflexibility – Letting process dictate customer satisfaction: We were dying for some water by the time the guy came around to take our cocktail orders. When asked, he said no, he could not bring us water. Another person would be around for that. And that person didn’t come until 10 minutes after that.
  3. Anti-Ease of Use – Making it hard to pay: We had to ask for the bill three times – once to a manager/owner – before someone finally brought it to us. Did they not want our money?
  4. Disrespect Deux – Surly service: No human interaction, no eye contact, no “you’re welcome” to our “thank you’s.” We were made to feel like we were a bother to something more important they could be doing.
  5. Putting Product Above Experience – A bad experience trumps quality – every time: Notice, I have not once talked about how delicious the food was, once it got to us. The experience was so bad, it trumped anything to do with the food. No customer should ever be forced to apologize to his friends, as my husband did, for recommending a place with great food. But that’s exactly what happened. He vowed never to go back again.

All of these problems are easily fixed, and yet this restaurant chooses to treat customers like dirt.  Bad service can show up in all the things that  you DON’T do for customers, just as much as doing something wrong.  Small businesses with a good quality product can easily value customers, empower employees to make customers happy or create a wonderful experience without adding any extra costs to their bottom line.

What one simple thing can you put in place today to ensure your customers feel appreciated, adored and important? Would it be teaching your employees to greet all customers a certain way? Would it be ensuring all emails are responded to in an hour? Please share in the Comments!

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