Service Recovery-“Turning a threat into an opportunity”

The other day my mother and I were alone at home and my stomach sent me signals for some lip-smacking oriental food. So I picked up the phone and dialled in my favourite (and very reputed) oriental restaurant in Gurgaon. This would have probably been the tenth time that I was ordering food from this place, and by my past experiences I know for a fact that this restaurant always seems to get it right. So everything was in place with the food chosen and the order placed, which was pleasantly taken in a polite, respectable and professional manner. While closing the call the order taker did promptly inform me that the food would take about 45 minutes – something, which I was expecting.

An hour had passed and there was no sign of the food… my mom even came and asked me if we were getting dinner the same day or the next!? In my mind I was giving them the benefit of doubt (maybe because I just loved the food they served) that maybe the delivery guy had lost his way, or maybe because they’re really packed with orders. However, I called them up again to check and the response was “Our delivery boy is already on the way, Sir, allow me to check with where he has reached and get back to you”. I patiently waited for him to call back for about ten minutes – which eventually did not happen –forcing me to make the call again. This time the response was “Sir, I am trying to get in-touch with our delivery boy but his phone is not reachable”. This situation carried on for about the next half an hour – by which, it was way past mom’s dinner time, leaving her growling stomach with no option but to look for whatever food there was at home. It had now been almost an hour and 35 minutes since the order had been placed.

Within the next five minutes I got a call from the Manager – a well spoken man who knew what the problem was, and immediately apologized, speaking the truth “We are still in the process of locating the delivery boy sir, I am extremely sorry, and we will not be charging you for this meal” (not that this was very important but nonetheless) Finally after a couple of minutes, the manager called back to tell me that they had been able to get in touch with the delivery boy and he would be at my doorstep in the next five minutes – and so it was.

Was I upset – yes, was I angry – no, not anymore. I tried to figure out in my head what it was that had kind of calmed me down eventually, because at the end of the day the food was delayed by over an hour, and throughout I was kind of kept in the dark about where it was. Did it have to do with the fact that it was my favourite restaurant and I was cutting them some slack – maybe, maybe not?

However, something that had definitely helped in a positive way was the manager calling me. Now, he was not some magician – after all he said the exact same things that the order taker was saying to me. But there were two things that stood out – ownership and the attempt to recover a situation.

Ownership of the fact that, yes, we have screwed up and that we are sorry about it, and the attempt to recover a situation that has gone wrong. Having managed numerous restaurants myself, -I know how easy it is to pass the buck by asking your order taker to “just handle it” with the typical “if you can’t locate the delivery boy then how will I?”

As far as I look at it the manager did the following correctly; He empathized with me and the situation  , He apologized (it felt genuine), He offered urgent re-instatement-doing something about it, there was some form of symbolic atonement-in this case waving the bill off and finally a follow up-he called a little later to apologize once again and enquire if the food was up to the mark.

They say that customers actually become more loyal after recovery (that is, of course, if done in a proper way). Most people are actually scared to approach the guest when something goes wrong – hell! Just give it a shot! The other person is also human and what’s the maximum that he will do? Maybe shout, rant or scream? So, let him vent it out… it’s far better than someone not attending to a situation that has gone wrong. Whenever I’m training my Food and Beverage associates, I make it a point to tell them that we all make mistakes – after all they need to understand that no one’s  restaurant will ever be perfect – there will always be issues, and hence there will always be complaints. What is going to probably set you apart or differentiate you from the rest is how you handle the situation/the complaint or how you recover – that’s an art which is slowly being forgotten.

So, after all this, the question arises – will I order food from this restaurant again – Yes! Most definitely! Is it because I love the food they serve? Yes! Or is it because they screwed up but I really admired the way they recovered the situation – Hell Yeah!!!

Kanav Mata

Customer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

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