I’m not a slave to ritual or routine, but the one exception to this was my weekly indulgence: a trip to a local diner for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Every week, (provided I went to the gym and did enough cardio to offset the calories!), I would go to this particular diner, sit at the counter and do my, “When Harry Met Sally” routine. In my case, the eggs needed to be scrambled, the bacon had to be well done and a fresh Kaiser roll was a must. After all, if we are going to overindulge, don’t we want it our way?
Over the summer, they got a new chef and things started to slip. First, they started crumbling the bacon into the egg sandwich. One week, the bacon came out very under-cooked. The raised the price by 25% and started including home fries. This wasn’t a big deal. I can live with the $1.50 increase and ask them to just leave the home fries off the plate (because otherwise I would just eat them all up, not exactly what I need in addition to the sandwich). During another visit, the egg was a little under-cooked, which made part of the roll mushy, and some of the bacon wasn’t well done. Still easily managed. I could just send it back next time. However, the final straw was they started using a different vendor for the rolls, which are now tasteless and doughy and render that sandwich not worth the calories, salt or cholesterol, so they will not be seeing me every week. They aren’t going to change rolls for one customer worth $425-450 a year in revenue.
What can businesses learn from this?
Despite our emphasis on soliciting feedback, primarily in the form of positive reviews and ratings on key sites, we still don’t have adequate mechanisms to solicit day-to-day feedback. We’re so burned out a jaded by the emotional and often exaggerated tirades written by customers (or in some cases people who were fired) and focused on the number of stars we have that we forget the real purpose of feedback: to help us improve our service and operations.
How can we fix this?
By creating ways for customers to comfortably communicate real time feedback via email or other vehicles about the small issues that crop up every day, listening to it without feeling defensive and then using it to make improvements. Just asking customers, “Is everything OK?” doesn’t work. If the waitress had asked me if my sandwich was OK, I would have said yes. Sure, I’ve sent food back, but the few times I have tried to provide face-to-face feedback in real-time that was short of getting my food prepared again, it wasn’t worth it.
I am saddened by the loss of my Saturday brunch time ritual, but my silver lining is that I’m going to make it a lot easier for my clients to communicate what they really think about me and my services.
Unfortunately, there goes my ritual, and about $425 a year in revenue for them.