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The Marriage Wars: Tables, wait lines and customer service
Sep 06, 2013 | 1298 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By DAWN BRANDVOLD-GRAY

I’m a sucker for good customer service. Give me a vendor who is engaging, a server who smiles and is efficient and reel me in. I’m also a creature of habit when it comes to dining. I have my favorite restaurants, favored in equal parts due to good food and good service. Last week, I crossed a favorite off the list.

After a long week, we hit one of our favorite locally owned eateries in Salt Lake City. It was late, the crowds had diminished, but we wanted to sit on the patio and enjoy these last days of summer. The host took our name and told us it would be a 20-minute wait for the patio. We weren’t in any hurry and informed her we would wait near the bar where we could watch some football.

Twenty minutes passed, then thirty and finally we inquired as to our place in line. With a smirk she told us that someone else had taken our spot. She put us back at the bottom of the list and told us it would be another twenty minutes. By this time it was nearing 9 p.m. and the place was pretty empty.

She didn’t offer to move us to the top of the list, or even seat us immediately inside. “Sorry” she said with a blank stare. So we left.

 I understand the economics of restaurant hiring, and I can also forgive a lack of knowledge, but when there is a simple solution to an unpleasant situation, it is hard to swallow.

What would happen if the only rule in life and in business were the Golden Rule: Treat someone the way you would like to be treated? Customer service is not rocket science and everyone has a bad day, but simply putting yourself in someone else’s shoes would go a long way to keeping customers happy and loyal. Thankfully, there are a plethora of restaurants happy to accept my business and my notoriously generous tips.     

By MARK GRAY

My wife was shocked by the attitude at the restaurant. I wasn’t. I grimly accept the slide in customer service and guest satisfaction in America’s retail world. Remember, this is the country where we expect a telephone call to be answered by a recorded message, not a real living and breathing human.

In the restaurant industry, the host/hostess position – the first relationship the customer has when entering the building – is typically filled by the lowest-paid employee on the payroll. Often the requirement for the position has more to do with good looks than common sense and people skills. When a problem ensues, the host/hostess should normally fix it or call a manager who could. The fact that she didn’t is a reflection on the restaurant’s training policy as well as its inept hiring practices.

The lack of customer service is epidemic. I recall a young so-called “bookseller” at Barnes and Noble staring blankly when someone asked for a copy of Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” a chain store employee in the music section looking for a Kenny Chesney album in the “rap” category, and a server at a seafood restaurant answering a customer’s question about a fish selection with “I don’t know – I don’t eat that stuff.”

I place some blame on cost-cutting and a management attitude that employees are interchangeable rather than valued for their individual skills. I also blame Americans in general for shopping at large chain stores instead of local shops specializing in (and knowledgeable about) specific products.

Will I go back to that restaurant? Not for a long time. But I was not as frustrated as my wife; I guess I have lower expectations of today’s customer service.

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