by Larry Williams
Have you ever stopped to consider that the customer experience can begin before you ever walk through the door? Impressions are made the very minute you approach a place of business. As consumers, it is not uncommon to observe the behavior of customers as they travel in and out of the doors.
My recent dining experience at a restaurant along the Pacific Coast had just such an effect. After observing the menu outside, my family and I traveled inside to enjoy a bite to eat. We were staying at this beach side resort for a week and were excited to taste the local food.
We were quickly seated and began looking over the menu. As the server took our order, I said “I’ll have the Chicken Sandwich with fries and I’d also like to have the Clam Chowder for the additional $2.50. May I have the Clam Chowder before my meal please?” The server said “yes” and we proceeded to wait for our food.
One of my favorite things to eat at the beach is Clam Chowder. My cup of Chowder arrived and it was delicious! A few minutes later, my Chicken Sandwich arrived, but there was something missing. There were no French Fries! I inquired about this and the server pointed out that I did not receive fries because I had “upgraded” my meal. That was the word used on their menu. This was perplexing because in all my years of dining, I have never encountered a portion of a meal being omitted while adding soup or salad.
What made matters worse, was when I asked my server to explain the policy, I was given the analogy “well, when you upgrade your hotel room, you receive an entirely different room!” It was all I could do to bite my tongue and not say “that’s true, but when you get a room with a better view or larger bed – they don’t take away the bathroom!” Apparently, the policy revolves around the word “upgrade”. I cannot imagine that I am the first customer who has expressed displeasure with this policy.
Nonetheless, I didn’t say any more. The server did add “you can order a side of fries for $3.95 if you like!” By this point, it did not matter how good the food was – my positive experience at this restaurant was rapidly fading. The decision to not dine here again during my one-week vacation stay was pretty much decided.
I tipped the server the usual fifteen percent and left the restaurant. On the way out, I stopped to take a photograph of the menu – just to make sure there wasn’t something about the wording that I missed. That’s when a potential customer walked up, saw me taking the picture and said to my wife “is that good?” My wife replied “not really!” The couple walked away.
Sometimes that is all it takes to lose a current or potential customer. It doesn’t have to be anything outrageous. It could be one word on a menu (“upgrade”) or two words outside the restaurant (“not really”). The word “substitute” would have been a better word to use on the menu to avoid confusion. The dissatisfaction could have been further avoided if management were to give the server the flexibility to bring over just a few French Fries, not a full order, but maybe only a dozen or so.
Carefully review the wording that is used in your business. Do your policies or contracts have terminology that could be confusing or misleading? It only takes one word to affect the customer experience. Whether that word is spoken or written, it matters and can mean the difference in having satisfied customers who return again and again.