Everyone has experienced a client / customer experience nightmare. Call it whatever you like; the fact is that almost every enterprise is going to have a bad day. What is done in the wake of the experience is the real stuff of being client / customer centered.

The Bad Experience

Since the first time we wandered into the Chartres House, it has been one of my wife’s favorite spots in the French Quarter. Nice corner location that opens to the sidewalk (Chartres & Toulouse), and a Cajun & Creole menu (I’m partial to the fried green tomatoes).

A couple of weeks ago we stopped in for Friday night dinner, and it wasn’t good. Specific details don’t matter that much here. Suffice to say that service disappointed and the food did not measure up.

Unwilling to let the bitter taste simply linger, my wife went to the website and wrote a pointed, but objective account of the experience.

The Good

Almost immediately she heard from one of the managers. What was communicated was simple. No excuses. No equivocation. Anything less than complete satisfaction was unacceptable. How quickly could we return so that he could erase the bad memory?

I was not that up for returning one week later; but we did. As instructed, when we arrived at the hostess stand we asked for Josh. It was clear the hostess was expecting us. Josh had saved a primo table, and we enjoyed what I’m certain were the top servers available.

Josh stopped by the table a couple of times. He didn’t overdo it, but he made it clear that he appreciated the second chance…that they were committed to making things right, and he was going to do everything possible to return to that top spot on my wife’s list.

And he did. Service was A+, the food was excellent, and Josh picked up the tab. Toward the end of the evening we found out that it was his first week on the job. He hadn’t even been in charge when we had our less that excellent experience!

That night cost the restaurant the price of our drinks and dinner — including an order of fried green tomatoes — and one of the best tables in the house for a couple of hours. And it won a raving fan — not because they have good food and decent service; we expect that. But because of the experience delivered…even when things went off the rails.

By Contrast, The Ugly

The Chartres House experience reminded me of an opportunity that was botched by another restaurant. Check Deborah McMurray’s Law Firm 4.0 Blog here for the tale of a steakhouse that did nothing. (And to my knowledge, none of the three of us have returned.)

I’m not good about voicing dissatisfaction or filling out those “Tell-Us-How-We-Did” surveys. Most of the time I’ll simply move on, give someone else the next opportunity to win my business, and seldom return to the place that failed to meet (or exceed) expectations.

This experience reminded me of two important points.

  • The value of honest client feedback — especially from those who, for whatever reason, might just move on to the next provider without ever voicing their disappointment.
  • A problem or complaint is an opportunity for a different kind of conversation — one that dares us to do more than simply talk (or write) about serviece.

Thanks to Josh at the Chartres House for the reminders.