Service Recovery


It is my favorite restaurant, and has been for more than 20 years.  It is less than ten minutes from our home, and there are many other good to great restaurants in town, but this one has stood the test of time for me.  The food is excellent, with many fresh fish choices.  The atmosphere is classy casual.  The prices are mid level expensive, which makes it a special night out, since we go there when we want to treat ourselves.  The service is excellent.  Or better said, the service is usually excellent.  It wasn’t this night, a couple of weeks ago. 

I arrived before my husband and his business colleague, and was seated by the owner.  I told him to expect Mike and his guest shortly.  Then I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  No server came by, not even to say, “I will be with you in just a minute.”  I was in a section that all tables were filled, and there was a server buzzing around, just not connecting to me.  After what seemed like twenty minutes, but was likely less than ten, I went to the front, and told the owner that I had not had even as much as a “hello,” much less water or any other service.  And I told him that since he had seated me, he knew I had been there for awhile.  He was obviously not pleased to hear this information, and said, “Thank you for letting me know.”  I knew the problem would quickly be solved.  And it was.  About the same time that the server appeared, Mike and his guest were led to the table by Steve, the owner.  The service quickly changed for the better, and we had a lovely evening.  The server never apologized, (and she probably should have;) she just kicked into high gear, and made sure that our experience the rest of the evening was without flaw.  We were pleased with the service, food, and the total experience.  Service Recovery had occurred.

Customer service is simple, just not easy, especially in restaurants.  People expect food quality, a pleasant and clean atmosphere, reasonable prices (reasonable based upon their expectations), efficient and timely responsiveness, and overall (at least) good service.  While we differ in our expectations for those different areas of service, at a minimum most people have those service expectations. If there is a lapse in any of those areas, especially in a more expensive restaurant in which the expectations are higher, it is hard to recover. Given that, why was this restaurant able to recover so quickly and well, especially with me, who has higher than average service expectations?  There are several reasons why recovery in this situation was not just possible, but quick.

The first answer is in the first sentence of this article.  This is my favorite restaurant.  I am a loyal fan, and I want them to do well.  I have had many other positive experiences.  Had these variables not been present, I would likely have responded (or reacted!) differently in this situation.   

Then, when I expressed concern about the lack of service, I was not met with defensiveness or inaction.  Instead, I was thanked for making them aware of the problem.  Then the problem was solved quickly, and in a manner that I, the customer, did not feel that it would be taken out on me since I had complained.  Instead, the attitude of the server was pleasant, accommodating, and responsive.  It was the best that we can hope for when we know it is not a perfect world.  Mistakes will happen, and there are many reasons why.  Those do not even matter, at least they do not matter as much as recovery.  It would have been nice to have been “comped” something, but we weren’t, and that wasn’t necessary.  I am not sure that I would have had any more positive of an experience had that been done. 

Customers will usually allow a business to recover, if they do the right things.  It isn’t always easy, but it is simple.  Especially if you are a loyal fan. 


About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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