Saturday, April 05, 2014

The restaurant that designed out customer feedback

So tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for you...
To mark the end of term and the start of the Easter Holidays we joined some very good friends and our (between us) three children for an impromptu dinner at a family restaurant close to home.
The food was (mostly) adequate. It was the service that was shocking.

Our friends had been to this particular place some six months previous. Ever since it had been known to their kids as 'The No Pudding Pub'. This was because it had taken so long for them to get any attention to order a dessert that they had run out of time and had no option but to leave. Kids going home without a dessert leaves a lasting impression...

Once bitten - well sometimes you are prepared to try things one more time... lightning stikes once and all that...
But, you guessed it, the bolt from above struck again.

Put aside the failure (having been asked three times) to provide a straw for one of the kids drinks, the food being served at an interesting and not entirely satisfying range of temperatures, main course plates left uncleared for a good 30 minutes (we resorted to stacking them ourselves - see pic), desserts served without cutlery, one dessert not served at all (a fact the bill belied), the table next to us resorting to wolf-whistles and waving cash in order to get their bill... put aside all of that. We can live with things going wrong if there are channels allowing us to help you put them right for us.

What really bugged me about this place was that customer feedback seemed to be deliberately designed out.
At one point in our very long wait for any kind of attention I considered ringing the restaurant and asking them to come see us on table 40. But. Not a sign of a phone number, website, email address, name of manager, name of customer service lead anywhere on the menus etc at hand on the table.
Which opened my eyes.

There was nothing written anywhere which called for, mildly suggested or enabled in any way the customer to give feedback. For most organisations knowing what your customer thinks of your product, service or experience is gold dust - prompting you for it, essential.
This place had none of the 'we care about what our customers think' or 'rate our service today' forms with paper attached on tables. Not a sniff.

But the restaurant was full. Why? Value prices, good location.
So the coffers are filling - and (because they are hearing no different) the future must be rosey, right?
Of course not. Here is a business focused entirely on customer acquisition. It has no idea of whether you've been before and apparently no interest in whether or not you will darken its doors again.

When my friend kindly picked up the bill (yes we did get the missing dessert removed) he told his server why the pub had been renamed in his house (The No Pudding Pub, you'll recall), and how we were giving it a second chance, and what had gone wrong today. None of this was recorded, The person we think was the manager was in ear-shot but kept his head down and stayed away. Freely given commercial advice of the customer experience variety was being handed over in spades - and none of it was collected - Designed Out!
We were offered apologies, and more apologies. No discount. No incentive to return to give them a chance to redeem themselves (you'll note). Designed Out!

Later I tried registering my negative sentiment via their mobile website. I completed one of those nasty online email forms in some detail. And when I hit the go button, the screen went blank. Designed Out! I've no idea whether they got it or not. Frankly I don't care.
Today if your organisation does not make it supremely easy for me to provide you with feedback at source I'm really not going to bother going out of my way to help you make your business better. But I will tell my friends because I care more about them than I do about you. I will share my experience of your products and services via tweets and blogposts.

That's why I haven't named the pub until right down here - I don't want to make it easy for their search tools to gather this freely given feedback because they appear organisationally designed to do without what  the customer thinks.

But I'll happily tell you, friend. It's the Marsh Harrier in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. It's run by Marstons.

They need an extra pair of hands at busy times. That might slice their margin on the customers in on that night - but it'll give you a way better chance that the customer will return for you to make a margin on another time. Oh and by the way - I'm pretty sure you make a better margin on desserts than you do on main courses... you can work out what to do next, right?

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?