Picture the scene. An 85-year-old woman walks into a pub on the outskirts of Chippenham, Wiltshire to check on a lunch booking she’d made to celebrate her husband’s 92nd birthday. His hearing isn’t so good these days and, knowing the pub can be noisy when busy, she asked if the party of seven could be seated at a quiet table.
“Oh, I don’t know, we may be busy, we can’t guarantee it”, said the manager.
My mother-in-law – for that’s who it was – reiterated the need for a quiet table to make sure the occasion went off successfully.
“Well, maybe this isn’t the pub for you”, said the manager.
At which point my mother-in-law cancelled the booking and re-booked at another, quieter venue.
There are two ways to interpret this:
1) This pub has a laser-like focus on its clientele and doesn’t need to pander to the whims of someone who’s not in its target market
2) THIS IS AN OUTRAGEOUS WAY TO TREAT A CUSTOMER.
I subscribe to the latter point of view, not just because it’s my in-laws, but because it was frankly discourteous and, since I’ve had many fine lunches at the pub with them, I know it’s possible to cater for someone with not-particularly-special needs.
All the more disappointing as their wait staff are normally very good and the food is great.
So, here’s the lesson from this little scene:
- Customer experience doesn’t just cover the main event (the meal), it’s the whole journey from reservation through to departure from the venue.
- All points in the journey provide an opportunity for failure.
- If your front-line staff can’t treat people with respect and make accommodations for their needs, they will lose you money.
- Excluding one group of customers has a knock-on effect: none of the party of seven – most of who are younger – will be inclined to go there in future.
Courtesy costs nothing.
Discourtesy will hurt your bottom line.