I have another case study for you.
Apologizing well is a key behavior for brand-builders to develop in their organization. When it comes to branding and marketing, it's no longer good enough to simply lure people through the door, brand-builders have to tightly manage the experience, clear through to fulfulliment and followup.
So, let me pass along a great story from my friend Rebecca.
We have a new craft brewery and restaurant that just opened in our downtown area about 3 months ago. A large, a 4 story building with a full brewery operation on the ground floor, a mid-level tap room that overlooks the equipment and brewery staff, and then a 3rd floor and crow's nest that houses a full restaurant and patio area.
I've been there a few times now with friends. The beer is fantastic and the food was spot on. Fresh, hipster-high-quality-Portland style pub faire.
Anyway, my friend Rebecca and I are hanging out chatting about a project, when she interjects, "Hey, I thought of you the other day- A friend of mine at work was telling me about an experience they had at Sky High this last weekend. I know you write a lot about customer experience stuff, so it made me think of you."
This happens on a pretty regular basis actually- the stories are almost always of the twilight zone (Where you just can't quite fathom the chain of events) sort of variety, involving restaurants, banks, insurance agents, doctor's offices, car dealerships, or retail. Oh, retail.
Here's the story: (We'll call Rebecca's friends Sally and her husband George)
Sally and George Go To Sky High
Sally and George take their adult kids to Sky High Brewery over the weekend to celebrate a birthday. The place is packed- they've had a ton of positive buzz since opening and always have lines and a long wait in the evenings and weekends.
The weather is beatiful out [but chilly], so they agree to take a seat on the patio under one of the propane tree heaters so they don't have to wait for a table.
After about 15 minutes, the chilly temps are just too much, so they asked to be moved inside. They're seated next to a 6-top of loud, drunk people.
They order their food and drinks. 40 minutes later their food arrives. Sally's son ordered pizza- it arrived hot and looked delicious. Sally, though had ordered a hot sandwich, and it arrived completely cold. The cheese inside melted, but the sandwich now totally cold. Everyone elses dishes were fine. There was still the drunk and raucus table neighbors though.
Given they'd already been waiting for almost an hour to eat, Sally decided just to dig in. The sandwich was good, but she'd really been in the mood for a hot sandwich.
The waiter came by and toward the end of their meal and asked how everything was.
Sally replied, "I was pretty disappointed with my sandwich. I had expected it to be hot, but it arrived cold. Also, it's been virtually impossible to hold a conversation with the table adjacent to us that's obviously drunk and incredibly loud."
The waiters response was pitch perfect.
"I am really sorry. We weren't quite prepared for how busy we were this afternoon, and it's led to some mistakes in the kitchen. We actually made a mistake on your son's pizza and had to completely remake it. Unfortunately, your sandwich sat finished while his pizza was in the oven. I'm really sorry, we should have simply remade your sandwich too. And as for the table that was next to you. I apologize. Normally we would have placed you somewhere else, but given how busy we are, it was all that was left. I know that doesn't change your experience though. "
A few minutes later, the manager came to the table and affirmed the waiter's response, also apologizing profusely. He also informed Sally and George that he'd be picking up their bill, handed tham a large gift card that would more than cover another dinner out with the kids, and graciously invited them back for another try.
"We have yet to open up the crow's nest, which will give us some extra flex space when things get crazy in here. And I can also assure you we're agressively continuing to train in the kitchen- These busy evenings provide lots of training opportunities and we're learning from them. Please come back again- I can promise you a better experience."
Four takeaways from this Sky High story
- Never make your customer pay for a bad experience. In the case of a restaurant, it is always worth it to comp the whole bill. If you're a bank, or other service provider that doesn't sell tangibles- always find a way to try to compensate them for the bad experience and their time spent. They shouldn't pay for your learning experience. Sky High nailed this.
- Be honest. Explain what happened candidly. Don't gloss over the mistake, minimize it, or fabricate a less embarassing story. Just let it all hang out. It's endearing to customers when a business chooses to be vulnerable and own their folly.
- Let them know how you're going to learn from this. How are you going to make sure it doesn't happen to them the next time they come in or refer a friend to try their business?
- Woo them back. If you've nailed those first three behaviors, you now have an opportunity to get them back as a customer, maybe even get a positive review shared with a friend. Give them a gift card to try you again. Invite them in on a slow night for a complimentary Chef's dinner to try some new menu items you're experimenting with. Bring a complimentary dessert sampler to their table. Something that says- we want you.