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How NOT to do customer service, handy hints for cafe owners

By acaciaelata 25 June 2009 55

Canberra-ites – are YOU interested in opening a cafe? Try this quick quiz to see whether or not your customer service skills meet the high quality we’ve come to expect in our fine capital.

Here is a hypothetical scenario. Read it carefully and then answer the questions below.

    Imagine that it is a typical cloudy, cold winter’s day in Canberra. But there is a break in the clouds and the sun is shining. A customer comes into your southside café in an organicy kind of shopping village, orders a coffee and advises you that he will sit outside on the sunny balcony that you mention on your blackboard. Much time later, say, half an hour, a shopkeeper from a neighbouring organic greengrocers comes in and advises you that he has had a phone call from the customer who is locked outside on the balcony and can’t call you, because your phone number is incorrectly listed with directory assistance, and could you please let them in.

Q1. When the customer came to the counter to order their coffee should you have:

    A. Taken their money and forgotten about them.

    B. Prepared a lovely cup of fair trade, organic coffee and served it to them promptly.

Q2. When the customer advised you that your door is locked from the outside should you have:

    A. Said: ‘Oh, well we didn’t expect anyone to go outside today‘.

    B. Apologised profusely and assure the customer that you will ensure that from now on the door unlocks from the outside.

Q3. If you answered A, and the customer then says ‘I told you I was going outside, and anyway, whether you EXPECT people to go outside or not, if you have a sign saying there is a sunny balcony, and it’s sunny, you can be sure someone will go outside so how’s about you make sure people can get back in once they’ve gone out‘ do you:

    A: Say ‘Well, did you leave the door OPEN when you went out?‘.

    B: Apologise profusely and assure the customer that you will ensure that from now on the door unlocks from the outside.

Q4. If you answered A, and the customer then says ‘The door was closed, so I closed it behind me when I went out‘ do you:

    A: Say: ‘Well it falls closed sometimes?

    B: Apologise profusely and assure the customer that you will ensure that from now on the door unlocks from the outside, or failing that, ensure the door doesn’t fall closed.

Q5. When the customer advises you that he had to call a neighbouring shop because your phone number is incorrectly listed with Directory Assistance do you:

    A: Say ‘Yeah, they misprinted it‘.

    B: Apologise profusely and undertake to phone Directory Assistance and ask them to change their electronic listing NOW.

Q6. When the customer becomes frustrated by your unwillingness to address any of the deficiencies they have just notified you of and asks for their $3.30 back and says they won’t return to your café do you:

    A: Grumble to the other customers and staff that some people are never satisfied.

    B: Apologise profusely and give the customer a free cup of coffee and a voucher for a free lunch next time.

If you answered A to any of the above: You have failed the test and will need to re-sit your Customer Service 101 class.

If you answered B to all of the above: Congratulations, your business is bound to be a success.

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55 Responses to
How NOT to do customer service, handy hints for cafe owners
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Consumer 10:01 am 24 Nov 11

Good rant, it always baffles me to see an employee get defensive when they’re the one in the wrong.

acaciaelata 5:25 pm 28 Jun 09

Those with a good knowledge of the inner south have accurately identified the cafe. I didn’t name it as I figured I’d given enough information so the cafe knew who they were. Maybe they were having a bad day and were caught unawares when I advised them of the problems.

G-fresh #31 is way off the mark – it’s not a service issue. As gardeninggirl #44 said, it’s a safety issue. The only way on and off the balcony is through the door, which was locked on the outside but not the inside. The balcony is approximately 3 metres off the ground, so jumping off would be dangerous.

The balcony faces a carpark and on said day only a few people, in the distance, were around. Yes, I could have yelled to get their attention if I didn’t have a mobile phone with me, but I could have been waiting a while.

What if I was elderly, or had a young child? What if it had started raining – how long would I have had to stand in the rain waiting for someone to hear me calling!? What if there WAS an emergency?

How hard is it to put a brick against the door so it doesn’t fall closed? If they know the door *sometimes falls closed* – why haven’t they already done something about it?

If a customer told me that they had been trapped outside for over half an hour and my phone number at directory assistance was wrong I would have been very concerned and solicitous and assured them that they would be the last customer to experience that problem.

Then I would have got a brick and propped the door open. Or made sure it was unlocked from the outside and posted a sign for staff to remind them to always check that from now on. Then got onto directory assistance immediately and insisted they change my electronic directory listing.

Oh – and btw. I worked in hospitality for many a year. It’s why I tip generously, acknowledge the staff and say thank you.

farnarkler 11:03 am 27 Jun 09

Someone needs to open ‘Cafe Rude’ so at least you know what you’re in for. There’s a legendary Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, London where, if the staff aren’t rude to you, you feel like you’ve missed out. If you’re ever there it’s called Wong-Kei (no, I’m not kidding).

burkes08 11:20 am 26 Jun 09

Jim Jones said :

G-Fresh said :

Maybe you all need to adjust your expectations. Like it or lump it. If every other place is so good, why not piss off elsewhere!

These hospitality people are a product of their environment, which includes their customers who are sometimes nice and sometimes ignorant sticklers.

So what you’re saying is that, if you get poor service, its your own fault?

I don’t think thats what is being said.

Look at this site for example. On most days there will be a post about the crap service that someone has received somewhere. We all then get together and slag off the customer service in Canberra.

Do we ever sit back and wonder why hospitality can’t get good staff? Why would you want to work in it when you never get any thanks and the poor service by someone else means that you are also branded with the same shit stick. We do the same thing to the police – if one is an asshole, we call them all assholes.

Sometimes in hospitality you will go out of your way to help people, beyond the call of duty, to receive not even the common coutesy of a thank you. You thank people for cooking at home, or at a friends house – why is it so hard to utter the word when you go out.

There aren’t many jobs where you go to work each day expecting to be abused for something that may not have been your fault. In my previous hospitality jobs I have been sworn at, been spat on and been physically assaulted. Pretty sure that when you make a mistake in the Public Service, someone doesn’t come down to your cubicle and shout and swear at you – then post your name on a website.

I continue to work in hospitality because each day I hope to get that one customer who gives thanks back. Wouldn’t it be nice if tomorrow I went to work and the number increased to two.

Jim Jones 11:05 am 26 Jun 09

G-Fresh said :

Maybe you all need to adjust your expectations. Like it or lump it. If every other place is so good, why not piss off elsewhere!

These hospitality people are a product of their environment, which includes their customers who are sometimes nice and sometimes ignorant sticklers.

So what you’re saying is that, if you get poor service, its your own fault?

GB 10:49 am 26 Jun 09

Clown Killer said :

Forgive me if I’m wrong (but I’m not), but isn’t the aim of any business to meet or exceed the expectations of you target customers?

You’re wrong.

Businesses have all kind of aims. Most (but not all) aim to turn a profit.

Many (probably not even most) do that by aiming to meet or exceed their target customers expectations.

Many do not. Eg airlines, computer consulting firms, Connex, travel agents. Sometimes the customer’s expectation is out of line with price or the nature of the business; sometimes the market is not competitive enough to require high customer satisfaction.

Whether a particular business is aware of what business model they are implementing is another question. I suspect that many cafes assume their staff are doing good (or adequate) service, when they are not.

OTOH many businesses work by lowering customer expectations by not meeting them but competing on price, enabling the business to make a profit delivering the service it can afford to at the price the customer will pay. Others work by meeting certain expectations, and ignoring others.

The customer is not always right; if you want to be treated as though you are, be prepared to search, and pay, for the privilege. Or start your won fiefdom.

If you want good service to prevail, reward good service, let them know, and vote with your feet.

There are plenty of times where I would choose good food with a nice environment but crap service, over excellent service without the other factors. And if I do, there’s no point whingeing about the poor service — you just have to be entertained by it.

G-Fresh 10:19 am 26 Jun 09

Maybe you all need to adjust your expectations. Like it or lump it. If every other place is so good, why not piss off elsewhere!

These hospitality people are a product of their environment, which includes their customers who are sometimes nice and sometimes ignorant sticklers.

deezagood 7:02 am 26 Jun 09

Clown Killer said :

The theory of the customer is always right is a load of rubbish, the customer is right in about 10% of cases. If you run your business to cater for the needs and illusions of every different person you will go broke pretty quickly from giving out free coffee

And so you should. Forgive me if I’m wrong (but I’m not), but isn’t the aim of any business to meet or exceed the expectations of you target customers?

I think this is the case everywhere else … but not in Canberra (where the service motto seems to be ‘the customer is usually wrong, and deserves to be treated at such’, OR ‘Don’t expect anything of me; I’m only doing this job until I can join the public service’!).

YapYapYap 1:26 am 26 Jun 09

Ahhhh, just tell us already!! I’m not here for a quiz on Canberra cafe locations.

Ivan76 said :

Name the cafe please so we can actually benefit from this post.

Shhh: It’s called Cafe Godwin

Clown Killer 1:16 am 26 Jun 09

The theory of the customer is always right is a load of rubbish, the customer is right in about 10% of cases. If you run your business to cater for the needs and illusions of every different person you will go broke pretty quickly from giving out free coffee

And so you should. Forgive me if I’m wrong (but I’m not), but isn’t the aim of any business to meet or exceed the expectations of you target customers?

Refer post #13. I think my work here is done.

Granny 12:55 am 26 Jun 09

They probably would have told the customer to stop complaining, as they could always jump in case of fire.

GardeningGirl 12:03 am 26 Jun 09

If the business knew its listing was wrong what had they done to fix it if anything? I cannot understand businesses that are so casual about contact details (also thinking of a local outlet for a certain product which is listed on the manufacturer’s website under NSW and when I’ve drawn it to their attention over a few years they just shrug).
There are ways of locking doors at the end of the day which won’t accidently engage during business hours. Indeed I’m wondering if the cafe breached some kind of fire regulations by not having a proper exit from the balcony?

bd84 9:42 pm 25 Jun 09

A is a pretty reasonable answer for all questions except question 1, a sorry might have gone well infront of Question 2.

Do you expect the staff to go and change the entry in the yellow pages for your convenience? Immediately fix a door that locks on the outside there and then on the spot? Sorry, but if you’re an idiot, you will normally get treated like one.

The theory of the customer is always right is a load of rubbish, the customer is right in about 10% of cases. If you run your business to cater for the needs and illusions of every different person you will go broke pretty quickly from giving out free coffee. I would suggest that putting an idiot proof lock on the inside would be the best course of action for this cafe.

Ivan76 9:36 pm 25 Jun 09

Name the cafe please so we can actually benefit from this post.

G-Fresh 9:12 pm 25 Jun 09

These guys are just trying to do their thing, earning a buck or two in the daily grind.
Sometimes they work up a bit of steam, but overall the hospitality is not as bad as is being laid out here.
It’s a shame you guys have had such a draining experience but I digress: Where are the stories of good service? Yarralumla Pide House is magnificent for one.

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