On a rainy holiday morning, a good friend of mine was awakened by the steady pull of his five-year-old son who was excited about the “awesome” pancakes his father had promised him the night before. Reluctantly, but gladly, the father peeled himself out of bed, got ready, and jumped in the car headed towards one of the few diners in DC that offer the “awesome” buckwheat pancakes. About 30 minutes later, the two were seated strategically close to the diner kitchen and were ready to have their eagerly anticipated dose of flour and maple heaven.
The waiter approached the table with a similarly broad smile and distributed his menus across the table. They almost wanted to save him the hassle and just put in the order since they both knew what to order; but then came the dagger:
“We do not offer breakfast after 11am and by this point the kitchen has been cleared and prepped for lunch, but you can order pizzas or sandwiches from this menu if you like”.
The expression on the five-year-old’s face was sadder than the expression of an airplane passenger who had just missed the last flight to a remote island; stunned and forlorn.
“But we walked in at 10:55am, I’m sure you can do something about it” the father said helplessly.
“I’m sorry”, the waiter responded, “there is nothing I can do. Please feel free to order anything you like from the lunch menu,” and he walked away.
The father consoled his son and they reluctantly decided to order some second-tier sandwiches. However, to their surprise, a few minutes later the waiter arrived with the breakfast menus saying that the kitchen was still equipped to handle their breakfast orders, “what would you both like?”
What took place in this exchange is critical to the performance of customer service and its impact on customer satisfaction. Clearly, there are bigger issues and challenges in the world we live in than the experience of a father and his son at a comfortable diner in DC; however, the focus of this scenario is customer service and the impact of staff willingness and desire to sincerely help resolve customer issues. Saying “no” to a customer is not something to be taken lightly since in most cases it is expected that customers would have given their requests considerable amount of thought before mustering the energy and the urgency to make a request. By no means should businesses always say “yes” to customers in order to keep them loyal and satisfied, but businesses should at least demonstrate that customer requests are considered carefully before a rejection is offered. This eases the blow and in most cases, keeps the customer relatively content.
In the scenario above, the server had an opportunity served on a golden platter to become the hero and appear to have made an exception for the two excited patrons and offer them the breakfast menu even though it was technically past the breakfast window (assuming the kitchen is equipped, or course); after all, the kitchen had not yet been cleared and prepped for the lunch menu.
It is in those instances that customers become loyal patrons. Instead, the server squandered the opportunity to turn a relatively frequent customer into a truly loyal one by using the word “no” prematurely. Although, the server eventually fixed the issue and satisfied the customer request, the damage had already been done and the child’s proverbial balloon had already burst.