How to Lose A Customer For A Lifetime


Losing a new customer for a lifetime is a terrible way to run a business.

Yet just last week that's what happened to my wife and me.

There's a new restaurant in Lakewood Ranch. Lakewood Ranch is where we call home. The name of the restaurant is "The Ranch Grill."

The restaurant is about 2 miles door to door from our home.

It was Friday night and we arrived at the restaurant at 6 PM. The place was mobbed. When I asked how long the wait was, I was told 20 to 25 minutes.

It turned out to be closer to 50 to 60 minutes - the wait time was doubled. During our wait I ordered two glasses of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. They delivered two glasses of Kendall Jackson Sauvignon Blanc. My wife's favorite glass of wine is the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.

After a taste we called the server over to explain what happened. After a couple of, "I'm so sorry's" my wife, B, finally got her favorite Chardonnay.

My advice is "Be slow to commit and quick to deliver." You could say this defines good customer service.

No one has ever accused B. and me of being very patient when it comes to poor service.

We were sitting outside and were soon overwhelmed with "Love bugs." They hang around for 30 days and then they're gone. So we found a place to sit inside the restaurant.

Bernadette walked over to the woman who was handling reservations and seating and asked her where we were in the queue. Her response was, "I don't know because I don't have a computer here."

Bernadette asked, "Where is the computer?" The woman responded and pointed to the other end of the bar about 25 feet.

Now let me digress for a moment. We shop at the Publix supermarket. Ask any clerk where something is and they will take you to the product no matter where it is in the store.

Here's my advice, "Be helpful, not helpless."

Finally, we get a table after waiting almost an hour.

We ordered two more glasses of wine. What are the odds of the same bartender screwing up an order of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay two times in one night to the same couple? Well, you're right he did it again.

The server kept saying, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." Well I'm sorry that she's sorry, but being sorry didn't solve anything.

The server then volunteers, "The bartender is new."

We ordered dinner. B orders the Pulled Pork special. I ordered a salad wedge and the fish and chips.

The place is buzzing with busboys, servers, managers, and even a general manager. They're all wearing headsets. We spoke to everybody after waiting for dinner another 35 minutes.

And there it was, a chorus of "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so very sorry."

Still no dinner. And then miraculously my wife's dinner arrives.

Not mine though. No salad and certainly no fish and chips.

My wife finishes her dinner. 15 minutes later my salad wedge arrives. I finished eating the salad.

The top of my head is about to explode. I asked the server, who keeps on repeating "I'm so sorry" to put my dinner in a box and I'll take it home with me.

The general manager came over for the third time to talk with us and said, "We're doing the best we can!"

Look, nobody in the world is doing the best he can. Three geniuses, Einstein, Schweitzer, and Edison once said they never worked to more than 20% of their human potential.

So I doubt very much the general manager and his minions are doing the best they can.

When we got home and after I had my long overdue dinner I took a pencil to a sheet of paper. Did some quick math and since we eat out several times every week and go to our favorite restaurants every month I estimate the lifetime value of our business is about $15,000 during the next 20 years.

The only good thing about our restaurant experience is that I got a customer service story out of it.

When a new restaurant opens it's usually pretty crowded. But guess what happens? If the dining experience was excellent the customers will be back. On the other hand, if the dining experience was worse than horrible they'll never be back.

Why do so many restaurants keep going out of business? It's because they all make the same mistakes. In fact, 61% of all new restaurants fail within three years.

Here's my advice to anyone who is thinking about opening a new restaurant.

Hire and train your new staff.

For the first 30 days only fill 50% of the seats in your restaurant. Now see what happens. The full staff is now working to create a memorable dining experience for all of your customers. In the process your staff would gain invaluable experience and not be so over worked and challenged by the mass of humanity that they would have to say, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so very sorry!"

If you want a good reputation unleash good food and great service from day one. Otherwise you might lose your new customer for a lifetime.

Obviously, this is easy to say and very hard to do.

The alternative to providing good customer service might be losing a new customer, like me, for a lifetime.



Customer Service - Quotes

Be helpful, not helpless.
Jim Meisenheimer

It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.
Henry Ford

Well done is better than well said.
Benjamin Franklin

If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.
Jeff Bezos, CEO

Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.
Jeffrey Gitomer

Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job.

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