When Service Overshadows the Product

customer serviceI was in a small town recently with my family and had one of those service experiences you just can’t make up.  I won’t mention the city or restaurant because truthfully, we could probably replace its name with many other examples.  Here’s the funny thing…the food was great…the service, not so much.  And indifferent enough it caused conversation at our table.

As with many local diners, this little place had some “daily specials” and one item was Asian slaw.  When I placed my order I asked our server what she thought about the slaw to which she replied, “I don’t eat slaw.”  My dad picked up on her facial expression and chimed in, “Do you eat anything here?”  And yep, you guessed it.  She quipped back, “I don’t eat anything here.  It gets pretty old.”  What do you really say to that other than laugh it off and move beyond the awkward silence.

As you can imagine, the incredible service (insert sarcasm here) became a topic of conversation at our table.  Now understand, the food was very good but our guest experience with our server became our focus.

So what caused our server’s demeanor?  Who knows?  Some possible contributors may include:

  • She’s just a college student trying to earn extra money.
  • She’s being honest.  Smelling and serving the same food every day may indeed get a little old.
  • She doesn’t like the type of food served at this particular restaurant.
  • The restaurant was busy and she was tired.
  • She was supposed to be off that day but was called in.
  • She was just having a bad day.

It’s true.  Any of the above reasons may have fueled her less-than-energetic service.  Or perhaps it was something else completely.

In the service industry it really doesn’t matter what might be underlying.  The truth is the customer is the one who suffers for we get the privilege of a service experience that overshadows even the best culinary treat.

So who is the blame for this service error?  The server?  The manager?  Or perhaps both?

My view:  both.  The server’s behavior is her responsibility – but only after the leader has provided clear expectations for customer interactions, the tools to be successful and accountability for the behavior.

It just makes me wonder.  How many other customers got to experience what we did?  And furthermore, are they talking about it too?

Can you relate?  Would love your thoughts.


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