I had a “Moment of Misery” happen recently.  I took a friend to lunch at new restaurant that opened just around the corner from my office.  The restaurant was getting pretty good reviews.  The person taking our order was very nice.  I commented that I was surprised that they were open for breakfast and looked forward to coming back one morning.  She said I could order breakfast anytime.  (This is an important part of the story.)

My friend wanted a chicken salad sandwich, but asked for it on white bread instead of a croissant.  No problem.  Then he asked if the bread could be toasted.  Big problem.  She said, “No.”  I was surprised and asked why.  She said she had no way of letting the kitchen know to toast the bread.  I told her it was easy – just tell them.  I then told her that she had toast on the menu for breakfast, why can’t she put toast on the sandwich.  She looked panicked.  I asked to speak to the manager.

The manager was also the owner.  She told my friend he could not have the bread on his sandwich toasted.  She said that since they were fairly new, they didn’t know how to show it on the computerized order system.  I again said to go to the kitchen and just tell them.  Her response was that we were in the middle of the busy lunch hour. 

I guess I had to see it her way.  On the way out we had one final conversation.  She thanked us for our business and said she hoped to see us again.  I looked at her and asked, “Why would we want to come back?”  I’m not sure she got it.

A couple of things come to mind on this.  Okay, they were new and I may give them one more shot – but I’ll be skeptical when I go in and they will have to prove themselves worthy of my future business.  Second and most important, (Here is the lesson.) they are more operations focused than customer focused.  Customers pay for lunch – the kitchen doesn’t. 

A key to great service is a simple word: flexibility.  The companies that provide the best service think in terms of the customer.  How hard is it to give the customer toast – when it is already on the menu?  Some companies create rules.  Others create guidelines.  Guidelines provide for flexibility. 

Customers ask for things.  Remember the old Burger King jingle?  “Hold the pickles.  Hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset us.  All we ask is that you let us serve you your way.”   

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email: shep@hyken.com  Web: www.hyken.com. For information on customer service training, go to www.TheCustomerFocus.com.  

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