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

Getting The Basics Right-Part III-“Tring Tring”

A happy voice and a pleasant tone saying “Good evening I am ——–, how may I assist you?” – it’s been eons since I heard that when I called up a food establishment, to place an order, for home delivery.

It was just the other day, that I happened to call up a reputed (American fast food) brand to order for home delivery, and the guy at the other end went “Hanji Sir, boliye”.  Not that I have anything against the use of our mother tongue, but it’s something I would expect if I was calling up a “Sanjha Chula” to place an order. I started the conversation in English but soon figured that if I carried on like that, I’d actually get nowhere, so yes – I ended up ordering my burgers (with exotic names) all in Hindi!

The fact that the conversation was not in English bothers me for sure, because it’s an expectation that I associate with a particular brand. Not only does the language bother me but also the manner in which the order was taken. The entire order-taking process – of just ordering some burgers actually took me about 12- 14 minutes – and to add to that, in that span I also did end up talking to three guys for the same! To make it worse, I was put on hold several times and somehow just did not get what they were saying. During the conversation I don’t know when the confusion began, so much so that by the end of it the guy on the other end managed confusing me as well!!

Once again I re-iterate it’s the basics: listen first (rather than interrupting), write down the order somewhere (for God’s sake, don’t rely on your memory), repeat the order (once the customer is done ordering, not like a parrot after each item is said by the customer), ask the customer if they would like anything else, mention the time taken to reach your home and finally re-confirm the bill amount. Not to forget if all of this is done with a SMILE :), the face muscles won’t ache too much.

I know there are establishments that have centralized their order taking, but it’s not like they are any good as well. I try to figure out the reasons in my head: is it that they haven’t been trained, or they have been trained but don’t follow, or they just don’t have the bandwidth?  There are no periodic checks, no one is supervising and to be honest, I have no idea what it could be! It’s the same story of getting those basics rights because as a customer too, we don’t want much, apart from the basics! 🙂

Watch this space for more!

Kanav Mata

Customer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

“The Happening Haunt”

The party scene in Delhi NCR has truly evolved over the past few years – from a select few nightclubs in star hotels, to a plethora of standalone nightclubs/bars/pubs/resto-bars – today we are spoilt with choice. What’s more – now both Delhi and Gurgaon have their own party hubs; HKV and Cyberhub, where one can start their evening at an inexpensive place (in order to get the alcohol levels right in the system without burning a hole in your pocketJ), hop on to different genres of music and probably end their night listening to some soulful Sufi tracks. All this in one place – sounds awesome doesn’t it?

So, what is it that makes a particular nightclub/bar/pub/resto-bar, (I actually don’t know what to call them hence the multiple names :), so to make things easier henceforth I’ll refer to them as haunts) the most happening place in Delhi NCR? Could it be the music, the events they do, the crowd, or the pricing? Well yeah, there is no doubt that all this contributes, but you know what? Sadly that’s not what makes it the most happening place! To be the most happening place, first and foremost you have to be NEW!!! Then you have to have an air of snootiness around you (essentially you create an imaginary one). With these two essential boxes ticked, you my friend, could be eligible to be called the most happening haunt in Delhi. Reasons for this being obvious: who in Delhi NCR would not want to be seen at the new place that’s popped up? And more importantly, upload a picture on Social Media, because you sure as hell, want the world to know that you managed to get into the most happening haunt! That’ll increase your social quotient by notches in an instant! 😉 It’s this hype that, sorry to say, we as customers create and make a haunt the most happening one; and that’s where the problems arise.

They take advantage of us, us the ‘ever so poor and gullible customer’. Once a haunt knows that it’s succeeded in becoming the most happening place in Delhi NCR, according to them, they have achieved Nirvana. They feel that now the customer is not important to them and hence can be treated with utter disdain and still nothing – absolutely nothing can be done to them!. Here are  a few things they usually do:

  • Restrict entry: Before I expand further, I am fully in support of crowd profiling in order to ensure that your haunt builds a good reputation and you let the right kind of people in. But I’d like to know the point of not allowing people in, even when your place is not full up to its capacity? Maybe, you are in your right to do this when there are stags, but with couples? (like WTF?) The other day I ended up reaching one of these so called ‘happening haunts’ in Delhi about half hour after the rest of my group (it was around 23:15 hrs). On reaching the gate the bouncer rather politely refused us entry and went “Sorry Sir, entry closed”. I tried explaining to him that I had a couple of friends waiting inside and he refused to listen! On hearing his “Sorry Sir, entry closed” line a couple of times, I requested him if I could have a word with the Manager to which I got a stern “Sorry Sir. He is busy”. I called up my friends who were already inside, hoping that would help,; but that didn’t change his reply. The friend I was with, told me that the last time she did this she was 20, and neither of us should bother begging people to allow us in. I fully agreed with her and just as we were about to leave, a friend of mine who knew the manager through a friend managed to haggle it out, and we finally entered. By then it was midnight and the guy at the bar promptly went, “Last Order”! The funny part here was, that from the gate I could see that the place was not full to its capacity, so I really didn’t understand what they were trying to establish by refusing entry to not only me, but another 10- 15 odd people, who were waiting outside.
  • Getting a drink: Just when you thought getting to the most “happening” haunt in Delhi NCR was the tough part, you’re proven otherwise. Getting a drink, that night, was almost as difficult as scaling Mt. Everest for me! Looking back now, I feel, I should have planned it better!  And that’s what places here expect us to do, decide who’d be going to go get the drink – do you think he will serve a girl faster, or maybe knowing the bartender would help because if he recognizes you, he’ll serve you faster? There are quite a lot of mind games attached. So let’s get a couple of things straight:                                  Bartenders are not doing me a favour by serving me a drink! I’m paying for it and hence you better serve it to me with a smile. Yes, the bar is crowded, but again there is a way of handling customers at the bar. And making a grumpy face or completely ignoring customers when they are standing at the bar asking you for a drink – definitely doesn’t help. It’s your job to serve me that drink, not my job to beg you for one.. If you smile and serve me, it’s not going to cost you much! Just because you man the bar, behind Delhi NCRs most happening club, you are not God’s gift to mankind!
  • Serving “ONLY” Premium brands: Don’t we all know that this is the oldest trick in the book? You go to the bar and ask for an IMFL brand of liquor; chances are the bartender will say that it’s not available. So you then you ask him what he has, and chances are the reply will include premium brands which will obviously burn a hole in your pocket! I’m quite sure if I pick up the menu of that place, they’ll have all the domestic brands listed on it, so why fool us by saying it’s not available? I do get the fact that you want to make A LOT of money, but this, my friend, is downright cheating!

But you know what? This title of being the most ‘happening’ haunt is very short-lived. It changes hands rather fast and I feel that if these ‘haunts’ manage to get some of the above mentioned things right, then maybe, just maybe, they’d get to keep that crown on their head for a wee bit longer!

Kanav Mata

-Customer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

Customer Service Basics: “What Restaurants in Delhi NCR are not getting right”-Part II

“May I have some water, please?”

I still remember my early days at catering college: Food and Beverage Practical Class where the module was ’Service of Water’. I remember thinking to myself as to what they’d teach us about serving water that I probably wouldn’t already know about, considering how simple the topic sounded. However, it’s been over ten years now and till date I haven’t forgotten what that one class taught me: Serve from the right, right food forward, left hand behind the back, pour with a steady flow, leave a gap of an inch and hold position for two seconds. This was the technical part of it and is still etched in my head. But what really stuck out was the way my F&B faculty actually explained the importance of ‘Serving Water’. He asked us all a simple question – what’s the first thing that you offer anyone when they come to your house? Quite a few people answered in unison, “water, water”. What he managed to do at least for me was to get the point across loud and clear, that “water is a basic need, which we must fulfill even before the guest asks for it”.

“May I have some water, please?” – is a question that I am having to ask way too often, when I enter a restaurant, these days. And it’s not like I sit, and before I can breathe, I ask for water; I give them their time, they offer the menu even maybe take the beverage order, and it’s then that I know that they’re not going to get me water unless I actually ask for it. It bamboozles me and in my mind I’m left asking myself, “what’s the deal?, have they been asked not to serve water until the guest asks or have they plain and simple forgotten.” I’m pretty sure it’s the latter because ‘hopefully’ no restaurant in their right mind would tell its associates to only serve water when the guest asks for it!

Then there are restaurants where I would get served water when I sit down but my glass getting refilled without me asking for it is like my boss giving me a holiday without me even asking for it!-Very rare

As a customer, this wasn’t something I had paid much attention to earlier, as I am not in the ‘drink eleven glasses of water everyday’ category. It was only when a friend who was particular about all of this, pointed it out a few times at multiple restaurants, when I actually started to pay heed and be more observant about this. And she was right! This was not a one off phenomena, but instead occurred quite regularly.

I also have an issue with a barrage of questions to ascertain water preference:

Q1. Would you prefer regular or bottled water?

Q2. Would you prefer room temperature or chilled?

Q3. Would you prefer still or sparkling?

All this just to serve me water which according to me is a need, more than a want?! Whatever happened to, “May I offer you a bottle of chilled water?” And if I do want otherwise, I will specify, but please, oh please, don’t put me through this ordeal for water!

I don’t think the rules of the game for ’Service of Water’ have changed since I graduated from catering, and there is really no rocket science behind this one. But as I mentioned, it’s the basics of service that restaurants in Delhi NCR are not getting right and this is just another one of them – although it’s a little more technical in nature but equally important.

Watch this space for more!

Kanav Mata

Customer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

Customer Service Basics: “What Restaurants in Delhi NCR are not getting right”-Part 1

Basic: “The essential facts or principles of a subject or skill”- the subject/skill in question here being: Customer Service. The above definition has three words which leave an impact: Essential, Fact and Principles. These three words probably highlight how important “Basics” really are. The subject or skill doesn’t really matter, it’s the basics that do.

It deeply bothers me that in today’s day and age with the amount of awareness, knowledge, and access to information, restaurants somehow are still not getting it right.  Personally I would like to express my views on one of the basics of Customer Service: “Smile:)

The other day I walked the length of Cyber Hub (Gurgaon’s ultimate food destination) in search of a restaurant which would satiate my need. I wasn’t really fixated on a particular cuisine so there had to be something else that actually lured me. While I traversed the length of Cyber Hub there was one restaurant in particular that caught my attention – and no, it wasn’t the way the signboard read or the number of people in the restaurant, or a recommendation that was ringing a bell in my head – but the fact that the people serving there had a smile on their face. It was such a pleasant change that I was immediately gravitated towards spending my evening (and my money) there.

Every interaction that I had in that restaurant, whether it was being greeted, taking my order, serving the food, the feedback being ascertained or finally bidding me farewell – it was all done with a smile:)!

My friend with whom I was dinning was not in the best of moods that evening and I took it upon myself to make her feel better. Clearly I had my work cut out, as during the course of the evening I realized that I had help from somewhere I least expected – our smiling server. 

That evening I walked out as a satisfied man. But was it because of the food, the absolutely flawless service, or the fabulous ambience? Strangely, neither of them.

It was only because they got one of the basics of Customer Service right: “The Smile:)

Sadly these experiences are far-fetched in Delhi NCR.

I was lucky to be given this piece of advice very early in my career: once you enter the guest area of the restaurant imagine you are on stage – you being the actor and the guests being your audience and the most important part of playing your character is to smile.

For me to highlight the benefits of a smile while serving the customer would be like going back to school, but I sincerely hope that restaurants in Delhi NCR get this basic of customer service right – more for their own sake than ours:)

Watch this space for more!

Kanav Mata

Customer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer