Waiter! Waiter! My Wife's Soup Is Cold


“Well if you are not happy sir, you make sure you never come back here again”. This was the exact response Eddie got from a flash restaurant at Auckland's viaduct when he complained about his wife's seafood chowder being cold.

Eddie has a strong accent and might have been taken as a tourist…. He is infact a New Zealander – and a very wealthy one who could have come back again and again, booking entire sections for his friends or business acquaintences. Needless to say this story was told at a party where there were some 40 people. Was the restaurant identified? You bet!

Is this the response we expect when we provide feedback for poor service? Do we cringe when giving feedback expecting Bazil Faulty to pounce on us? Is there no sense of respect for the quality of products that we pay for? What about the relationship between the service providers and their customers? Is this the image we want to present to tourists, let alone locals who could become regulars? After hosting Auckland’s America’s Cup event, some cafes in the area have failed whilst others have thrived. There reason for the former? You guessed it: Customers were treated like dirt. When will we learn? Don’t they know there’s a recession on?

What about your organization? Yes, your company no doubt says it puts customers first. Everybody says that. But how do you actually know your clients feel they have an awesome buying experience with your company?

How many of you have your own stories of  bad experiences at restuarants where you have been treated as being a nusiance when giving feedback regarding service? Or perhaps you feel like they are doing you a favour and you should be gratefull and accept it as is.

Customer Service - The Great Oxymoron

“Terribly good”. “Honest politician”. “Customer service”. Sad to say, all examples frequently turn out to be contradictions in terms.

How do we as customers react when given poor service?  What is the challenge for organisations and their staff  as service providers especially in the current economic climate?

As customers, many of us accept this behaviour by not reacting to it. We leave and if bad enough will not return – unless we have to. We might tell a number of our friends, or – the worst option, return without complaining. Each of these outcomes really does not address the problem directly.

As customers we have the power to provide income and profit to staff and companies. This is part of the trade off – you supply me goods, services and respect and I will provide you money and ongoing business.

In this time of economic pressure customers will be looking more for the companies and staff that are helpful in supplying goods or services and respect.

As managers and staff who are key to the delivery of a total package to your customers – people like Eddie – how well do you perform? What is the risk if you do not know and what is the cost if you and your staff are not capable of supplying Eddie the sort of relationship, goods and services he is looking for?

Many organisations like to pride themselves on their ‘customer service’, which, I suppose is okay. The good news for all organisations and their staff is that they all do supply customer service whether to internal or external customers. Therefore the question is not about customer service. It is about the outcome customer service should achieve.

All of us are customers. As a quick exercise take a piece of paper and focussing on the last week recall all your experiences as a customer.

This usually will take you a little time as you work back. Did anyone provide you with a great buying experience? I expect that most of the experiences were non-events – nothing to grab your attention and so were ho-hum. You may go back there out of habit but little enthusiasm.

The ones you will recall easily are those that were special (or those that were bad) because someone went out of their way to be helpful and spent that extra little time getting to know you and your needs.

If you are in a business that relies on customers will you be forgotten because your service is forgettable – nothing special, or remembered because of its awfulness, or because you made customers feel special?

How To Handle Cold Soup Complaints

Good customer service relies on three factors: The attitude of your staff; The training of your staff; Good and consistent processes.

With regard to staff training, feedback about the soup can be dealt with by using the HEAR IT principle, an acronym for dealing with all complaints (Not just cold soup):

  • Hear them out. Listen carefully. You may have heard it before, but to the customer this is imporatnt.
  • Empathise. Show some fellow feeling. What if YOUR soup was cold?
  • Apologize. Apologies are free, and sometimes this is all the customer needs – a display of the right attitude.
  • Rectify. Fix the problem, and fast.
  • Include extra. This is a nice touch. A free drink or desert can actually turn a complaining customer into a loyal client.
  • Timely follow-up. A phone call a little later to make sure all is well with the world is never time wasted.

In summary, apply the T.L.C. approach. Yes, you could say “Tender Loving Care” but how about putting yourself in their shoes? What I mean is, try this: Think Like a Customer. If you adopt this simple philosophy as one of your company values, people like Eddie would come back again and again.

Article written by Shashi deZoete-Sharma


About the author: Shashi is a Senior Business Advisor at Advantage Training and Consulting Limited.


Guest Writer on Business and Success

You may also like:

Filed under Customer Service. Posted by The Corporate Toolbox on