Customer Service Challenges

Bad Customer Service

Imagine that you have had a successful week at work and you feel like celebrating by going to your favourite special restaurant with your family. Expectations are high and the scene is set. Having been shown to your table the evening begins with a chatty catch-up and the anticipation of tasty food and plentiful amounts of drink kicks in. We are off!.

The waiter/waitress introduce themselves and explain the specials on the menu. The drinks orders are taken and you are left to peruse the menu choices. The perfect start, so far so good.

Someone knocks the table and I wake up, I was having a dream! In reality, we are still waiting for any service and menus. Fifteen minutes later still nothing happening. Reality kicks in.

There is nothing more frustrating and annoying than bad customer service however, this is a recurring problem across many restaurants throughout the world.

On my travels, I frequented many different types of eateries including Italian, Vietnamese and Thai establishments. I have to add I ate in these countries and had authentic dishes which were sometimes challenging but on the whole were tasty and quite delightful especially Vietnamese.

The cuisine is inviting and healthy reflecting the local produce. Pho is a good example. Pronounced Fir, this is the national dish consisting of beef broth, bean sprouts, coriander and a hint of chilli. Beef or chicken is added and cooked in the hot broth. A good healthy start to the day.

Vietnamese Pho

One thing they do is when you order they bring all the courses at once. The service is good but they are very sly as they have delivered all your food In one go that means they don’t have to remember or exert themselves to deliver the right order. Now they can sit down again and have a smoke and a chat. Clever until you insist you order one course at a time and have a leisurely meal.

This brings me to an experience I had recently in Romania where I stumbled across a Vietnamese restaurant. I was delighted to meet a Vietnamese employee so I asked him where he was from. He replied, Vietnam. I guessed that so I asked where was he from, which city, he replied Vietnam. Once again I asked the question. The reply came – Vietnam! Eventually, I ascertained he was from Hanoi

Anyway, I was served by a charming Romanian who failed to recognise that half of the menu was, in fact, Thai so when I made the order I confirmed the order which he then read back to me. I ordered spring rolls and Vietnamese rice noodles with chicken.

What I got was a version of Pad Thai, which I decided to accept as the restaurant was really busy and I hadn’t the energy to complain, I was too hungry. The dish was totally under seasoned so I requested some Soy sauce which came in the smallest cup possible then I subsequently got charged for it. Damn cheek! Normally these accoutrements are on the table as standard and FREE.

The lesson to be learnt here is for the waiter to listen and absorb the information. When I taught English in Asia I said to my students, ‘ you have just spoken two of the most dangerous words in the English Language. ‘I Thought!’

It is dangerous to interpret what you think should happen. Deal with the facts and nothing else. So when it comes to orders stick to the script please, no surprises needed.

I mentioned earlier that I have enjoyed eating in Italy, where being a waiter is a vocation and a joy.

Good Customer Service

The Italians are passionate about their food and border on an arrogance when it comes to service, but boy is it good. No sycophantic Americanisms like ‘Have a nice day! Just the desire to please and deliver top class service. I think it helps that the Italian language sings to you and it feels as if you are their new friend.

I was in Bergamo, Italy where I went into a popular lunchtime restaurant where I ordered a simple pizza and a glass of wine. Simply delightful and a true taste of Italy but the experience was topped off by the friendly and empathetic service. They always engage with a smile and make eye contact which makes the experience personal and special. A lot of this is down to family-run businesses. I will always remember that lunch.

Good Attitude. Italian Waiters

To deliver a good consistent customer service certain elements should be put into place, one of the most important being training. In Italy, they have courses to train professional waiters at ANPA – Accademia Nazionale Professioni Alberghiere in Rome. Sure we have management and catering courses but being a waiter is considered a pretty lowly occupation in the UK. It’s a means to an end and it carries very little self-esteem and the service is reflected in this occupation.

On the other hand, there are some very well polished waiters working in top-class restaurants and hotels who have been trained in house however there is a certain amount of arrogance and snobbery involved and as a customer, you are expected to be au fait with the dining etiquette.

Some years ago I went to a French restaurant in London and the waiter new the name and flavour of over twenty cheeses on the cheese board and could recommend what wine to have with each one.

Maybe it should be considered as a recognised professional occupation. After all, it is one of the most important roles in any restaurant as good service will reflect your brand and determine your target audience.

One of the most stunning pieces of service I experienced was at ‘The Waterside’, Bray. Berkshire. My wife and I were sitting adjacent to the French Doors overlooking the Thames. there was an annoying wasp hovering over our table. The waiter came over and engaged eye contact with me and asked if everything was satisfactory whilst he dispatched of the intrusion discretely. Brilliant, I have never forgotten his considerate service.

It is evident that there are two clear areas of service. Firstly, the service which is casual and is a means to an end and on the other hand there is the professional and skilled service where you pay for to receive a premium customer care.

So what is the best and worst service you have ever experienced? Share your stories in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you.

Published by Nick Vereker

Hi, I am a business coach, concentrating on the photography side of social media. I do one to one coaching and groups which are tailor-made to your requirements. I have been and still am, part-time a travel photographer, practising throughout Asia as well as teaching English. I am a qualified coach and have completed a diploma course in Social Media Marketing. I am looking forward to sharing this knowledge with you and helping you move your business to the next level.

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