To Ensure Customer Delight, Deliver Bad News Early to Your Customers in Business and at Work

After services (and our annual Sundae Sunday Valentine’s Day celebration) today, I gathered with two other parents and our collective pre-adolescent children at the Union Street Cafe on Upper Union Street in Niskayuna, NY. The kids sat at their own table three tables away, happily passing their electronic devices around to each other, and we parents sat at a corner booth free to chat about grown-up topics.

The Union Street Cafe was packed with customers in search of Sunday brunch and great Greek food, and we were lucky to get our tables before the next wave of customers arrived. Our waitress, Jessica, was Juanita-on-the-spot with everything we needed (often without us needing to ask), and I happily ordered spanakopita, the Greek spinach pie made with feta cheese and filo dough, my favorite.  Jessica also offered to create separate checks for each set of respective parents and children on her iPad, which we gratefully accepted.

As we occasionally eyeballed the kids to ensure that they were demonstrating their respective good upbringings, Jessica stopped by to deliver some bad news to me.  “Our next batch of spinach pie won’t be out of the oven for 15 minutes, and I wanted to let you know about the delay.”  Jessica’s proactive customer service immediately had me at hello. In my decades of dining out, I have rarely experienced a restaurant server giving me a heads-up that my order would be delayed.  Instead, the norm I’ve experienced is that the food it just delayed without any communication to me as the customer, and I get annoyed by the slow / poor service, as well as by the need to start asking the server where my food is and why it’s taking so long, a.k.a., noodging.

Since I had snacked on bites of ice cream sundae before lunch, Jessica’s news was fine. “Please don’t hold up everyone else’s meal, just go ahead and serve everyone else, ” I replied. “I can also just take my lunch to go, if need be.” Jessica then offered me a choice, another customer-service win.  “I’m hoping everyone’s meal will be ready at the same time; but if it’s not, I’ll bring you your salad first,” Jessica offered.  Perfect.  “Sounds great,” I agreed.

Five minutes later, Jessica delivered all of our lunches together – everything was great. Jessica, seeing that I had eaten half the meal, brought the take-out container (and even the tiny lid for my salad dressing cup) for me to load up and take home.  More proactive, almost psychic customer service.  I thanked Jessica, and complimented her on both the service and the food. Jessica sealed the deal by bringing a bag for everything, also without asking. It turned out Jessica was the owner of the Union Street Cafe.

Jessica’s service was platinum.  And the most impressive part of her great service was her proactive communication to me that my lunch might be late.  Her communication was authentic, gave me choices as a customer, and demonstrated care and consideration, rather than fear and defensiveness that a conflict might arise.  Perfect.

How will you and your team ensure customer delight by delivering any bad news that might arise this week early to your customers, in business and at work?



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