Tuesday February 25, 2014

Stoned Kale

I love hearing great customer experience stories. Much can be learned though from analyzing not-so-great expriences.

A quick case study for you today: 

Stoned Kale

I met a colleague last week at a restaurant I love. One of those casual, but healthy dining concepts. He asked for a menu suggestion, so I recommended my favorite dish- one with lots of veggies, kale and local meat. 

I really enjoy introducing people to new restaurants so I'm pretty strategic about where I schedule coffee and lunch meetings. I see it as something I bring to the relationship- part of the collective business experience.

This occasion was no different. We sat down and settled into conversation. When our food came, we dug in, encouraged by the amazing smell wafting up from our bowls. All was well in the world. Then my buddy stops chewing abruptly, reaches into his mouth and pulls out a smooth stone, roughly 4x the size of Nerd candy. Tooth-cracking size. He'd scooped it up along with a bite of Kale and shredded beef. 

Shocked and embarassed, I grabbed his bowl with the remaining food, walked right up to the counter, and motioned for someone to come over to the side where I was standing. I quietly explained what happened and asked how they wanted to handle it. 

This was their response: 

"Oh, I'm sorry. That actually happens a lot. For some reason the farm where we buy our kale doesn't get all the rocks out when they're washing it. Would you like us to replace it?

I actually coached them a bit and said, "You know, this was their first time. It's a bit disconserting when you bite into a rock in your dish. Why don't you prepare a new one, and work up a certificate so he and his wife and come back another time. Hopefully this is just an anomoly and you can make them a fan like I am." 

A little while later one of the employees came over, apologized again, and handed my friend a certificate for a free burrito. 

My analysis:

  • The employees have never been trained/coach on the long term value of each customer
  • The employees are not properly empowered to handle this kind of situation well
  • "This actually happens a lot" is the most outrageous part of their response. Are they just waiting for a customer to crack a molar in half? Do they even care about that possibility? They'll need a lot more than a free burrito if that happens. 


What they should have done:

  • They should have responded with genuine concern- the customer could have cracked their tooth, choked, etc. 
  • They should have offered to make whatever my guest wanted on the menu- "Perhaps you'd like to try something different."
  • They should have quickly asked for my credit card to refund the cost of our meal. 
  • They should have applied an equal amount to a gift card and had the manager deliver the card to our table. 
  • The message should have been: "I'm very sorry about the rock in your meal. Unfortunately this not the first time this happened. I've got a note into our owner- we're going to have to consider changing suppliers for our Kale, or revamping our inspection/cleaning process here in the restaurant. I can assure you one way or another, we will never let this happen again. Please use this certificate to give us another try. May I get your email or phone number so we can follow up with you once we've taken care of this issue? 
What did I miss? What would you have done if you owned this restaurant?


Chris Nordyke is an integrated marketer and strategy consultant. He works with owners and senior business leaders to transform and grow service companies via a unique holistic approach that drives referral business and client retention. Click here to schedule a complimentary consult with Chris.

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