Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What Restaurant Service Can Teach Us About Word of Mouth Referrals

Recently my family dined at a new restaurant in our neighborhood. We were greeted by the hostess and we asked for a table for four. There were three of us there and my husband was parking the car. She informed us she wouldn't seat us until all of our party arrived. I laughed as I looked at the empty restaurant and said "You are joking, right?" She informed me that she was serious. I said "No, really you WON'T seat us until my husband finishes parking? REALLY?" She then said the absolute worst words ever spoken "Yes, I am sorry it is our policy".

Luckily a waitress offered to seat us before I went into a lecture about customer service, and how customers needs need to supercede policies.

I once spoke to the VP of food and beverage at the Ritz. When I asked him his philosophy of customer care he said " I treat people as if they were valued guests in my home." With that in mind, I can't imagine that the restaurant or the hostess would tell their guests to wait until everyone got there before letting them into thier home.

How many times has this hostess aliented her customers with her rigid attitude? How many people have communicated this treatment to their friends?

For quite awhile I have been writing about the importance of exceptional customer service. This has been especially true because of the internet. More and more we look to the web to tell us about others experience with a business. You probably have googled either a business, product or person to learn more about them.

Before the internet word of mouth referrals were pretty limited. If you messed up maybe that person would tell his or her friends, but the damage would be limited. But now one well written post could literally ruin the reputation of you, your product or service.

In a recent article in the NY Times Joe Drapes writes:

"While chef worship is in vogue, members of the next generation at the front of the house seem satisfied to practice their craft anonymously and perhaps more subtly. Their livelihoods, after all, depend on it in an era where the story of a bad dining experience can be posted on the Internet within minutes.

“I cannot afford to lose a single customer,” said Mr. Grieco, who opened Insieme more than five months ago and, with Mr. Canora, has owned Hearth in the East Village for nearly four years.

“It used to be that if something went wrong, you might lose a circle of family or friends. Now, half our reservations come from the Internet, and a negative experience on a blog can affect thousands of potential customers.”
Where first impressions mean much and can be spread instantly, there is a thriving market for hosts adept at managing image as well as business."

However it seems that some people have not yet gotten the message. How about you? Do you really understand the power of word of mouth? Have you googled yourself recently to see what people are saying about you?

Start (or keep)providing the kind of service that gets people talking about you in a positive way.

1 comment:

Scott Sheaffer said...

The comparison is sound here, especially when you consider that restaurants have waiters and waitresses who work on a comission. This would be the 15 - 20% tip.