On a recent trip to London, my partner and I visited a fancy restaurant. It had great reviews online and we were looking forward to it.
We were seated at the table. 10 minutes passed, no service. Then 20 minutes. We were getting annoyed.
As we got up to leave, we passed by the manager and politely informed her of why we were leaving.
She was phenomenal.
Instantly, we could tell she was embarrassed. She apologized for her staff’s oversight and for her personal failure to deliver on her own standards of service. She begged us to stay and asked how she could make it up to us. She offered to buy us lunch, on the house.
“Our reputation is the most important thing to us”, she said.
Overwhelmed by her response, we agreed to give her a second chance.
She personally came to take our order. She was so upset, she cried. She was beside herself.
The food was phenomenal. The steaks were great. The service was second-to-none. It was so impressive, in fact, that my partner and I conferred and decided we would go ahead and pay for the food anyway. Filets are an expensive cut of beef after all, and it didn’t seem fair to us to accept them for free after the phenomenal customer service she had delivered.
But then something funny happened. As the service came to an end, the person who had been helping us was replaced by the manager of the restaurant. It was obvious this person was the head honcho.
He came directly to our table and let us know he had heard about what had happened initially. And he offered to comp us on…the dessert.
The coldness of the business had taken over. Suddenly we were no longer people; we were receipts. Keep in mind, we had already decided we would pay for the meal, despite the previous manager offering to comp the entire thing. Apparently, she’d overstepped her bounds, and this person had made the effort to confront us at the table to make sure we didn’t walk out with that free meal. Reputation, it seems, was not the most important thing on his mind, so much as financials. He nearly undid everything the previous manager had succeeded in delivering.
Though the steaks were great, the corporate manager left a bad taste in our mouths.
The personal connection, not corporate.
One thing that will never be outsourced by machines or a smartphone app is exceptional customer service. That’s because customer service is all about the personal connection.
Consider the difference between the first and second managers’ response to our situation. The biggest difference between the two was the first manager’s personal investment in our experience.
When you fail to deliver, you can’t simply outsource the concern to a customer service center. You have to show that you care about your client. The only thing your competitor can’t copy is you.
If you’re not concerned with creating the absolute best experience for your own customers, you may be in the wrong business. The fundamental proposition of any business is to in some way improve the lives of its customers. If we’re not focused on that, and on providing that experience, we become a cash register.
Don’t change the goal posts. Deliver on your promise.
The first manager was absolutely spot-on about one thing: our reputation is the most important thing to us.
As B2B business owners, our reputation is our bottom line. While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day financials, it’s important to keep our focus on how we are building and growing our social capital.
Think of your reputation as an investment in social capital. The more you invest, the more return you can expect to see on that investment. Word-of-mouth and online reviews are ways in which social capital pays dividends in the long run.