Category Archives: London restaurant

You are awesome. We will be back.

Most days I am thoroughly underwhelmed by mediocre customer service experiences.

It amazes me that in a competitive marketplace how little emphasis seems to be placed on providing outstanding service, especially when we know that personal recommendations are key in helping people make purchasing decisions, whether buying a new product or choosing what charity to support.*

If you receive poor or mediocre service you might not say anything. You just might not return. If the service is diabolical you probably will tell the world in order to stop anyone else having he same bad experience, or sometimes to give the diabolical service provider the opportunity to put it right. (You can see some of the best diabolical service complaints letters that went viral here)

So when something exceptional happens it really stands out. Something exceptional happened this week and I want to tell you about it.

I went for lunch with a friend at the Oxo Tower Brasserie on London’s Southbank. It’s on the 8th floor and has stunning views over the city. It was her birthday.

TG51We had a delicious meal and while we were waiting for coffee something unexpected happened. Our waiter, Marco, arrived at our table with a plate with Happy Birthday written on it in chocolate sauce accompanied with a scoop of ice cream with a candle in it.

My friend thought I had arranged it. (For a fleeting moment I thought of taking the credit, but I had to confess I hadn’t been that thoughtful.)

TG50

I asked Marco how he knew. He said he had overheard us talking when we toasted with our wine earlier and he thought it would be a nice thing to do.

It was more than a nice thing to do. It was awesome.

So a scoop of ice cream with a candle on is no big deal. The big deal was that someone was paying attention to us, understood that it was a special occasion and took the time and effort to do something to make us feel special.

Exceptional service like that is so rare. Yet in a competitive marketplace if you don’t offer exceptional service how do you get your customers to return and recommend you to others? The same applies to your supporters and donors.

It takes a bit of extra effort – but the result was that Marco and the Oxo Tower Brasserie stands out in a crowded marketplace of average experiences.

So thank you Marco for being a brilliant waiter and making our day. You are awesome. We will be back.

*Recent research claims that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations (Source)while only 14% of people trust advertising.  Source: “Marketing to the Social Web,” Larry Weber, Wiley Publishing  2007

 

 

Stop press – a great customer experience story

I always complain if I receive rubbish service (so most days), and when I have a great customer service experience I shout it from the rooftops. Partly because it’s so rare and partly because I want to share that providing great service may take a bit more thought and effort, but it’s not actually that difficult.

On Thursday I went for dinner with my friend Katie, the brief was budget. She turned up with a 2 for 1 voucher because her mum had bought a special offer pizza in Sainsbury’s last week. Always sticks to the brief does Katie.

So we rocked up, well more like waded up in the torrential rain and joined the queue of drowned rats at the door. The restaurant was packed but within a few seconds the waitress said hi, and advised us we would have a 15 min wait, was that OK? We had a lot to chat about and didn’t want to back outside in the rain so decided to stay. She offered us a four person table, but we offered it up to the four people behind us as a two table would only be another 10 minute wait.

Once seated our waiter gave us each a glass of wine on the house as we had to wait and for offering up the four person table. Wow – free wine?! Great stuff.

Once we got over the shock, we took a moment to look around this transformed Pizza Express. The interior had been given a makeover, bright colours and stripey walls, funky chairs and sofas and one wall was a big screen playing an unidentified black and white film. It didn’t feel like we were in a Pizza Express.

Our waiter was great, attentive, but not pushy and he was actually excited to tell us about the different pizza bases and pointed out that he should know, as he was half Italian.

The staff had new uniforms, rather cool blue t-shirts with a fluorescent re-branded logo although the chefs were looking a bit jailbreak their striped outfits that matched the walls.

Our food was good. The menu had been given a refresh too and there were more charity partnership offers than before. We sampled the new Baileys latte (it would be rude not to), and I fully recommend.

The restaurant was busy but we didn’t feel rushed. When we wanted the bill the waiter was there, no Mexican waves or pretending to walk out to get their attention required, which in the norm in my recent experience. Our meal was on brief and cheap as chips, in fact it may only have been cheaper if indeed, we had eaten chips.

Then we were given feedback invitation cards and asked to give feedback online if we had had a good time, and also if we hadn’t. I have done this and am now expectantly waiting for my £500 Pizza Express card, but in the meantime happy with my dough balls voucher. (although I would have given feedback without an incentive)

On leaving a waitress that we hadn’t even spoken to smiled and said thanks and she sounded like she actually meant it too. And THEN the waitress on the door apologised for the wait again.

We left the restaurant reeling in shock at this unexpected great experience.

We all bang on about the customer experience and donor journey, but I’m not convinced many organisations are actually doing it.  So well done Pizza Express you have done a great job. You have transformed from average high street pizza chain to providing customers with a remarkable pizza eating experience. I think its fair to say that your pizzas went a bit small for a while and I am still not sure about the ‘diet’ pizza with a hole in the middle but based on this recent experience I’ll let you off. I think you are back on track.

So team what can we learn from Pizza Express? Is it as simple as a bit of a brand refresh, lick of paint, some customer service training combined with getting the right people on the bus in the first place?

It feels that Pizza Express have really worked at cross selling their products with simple supermarket incentives, integrating online and offline messages, providing customer incentives to return, providing great product, actively seeking feedback, providing superb in restaurant service and excellent value for money.

But don’t just take my word for it – go hang out in Pizza Express or anywhere else that provides good service and watch and learn.  And then go do it yourself.

I’m still reeling in shock and thinking I should probably go to the gym today to offset the anticipated voucher.

Better to aim too high and miss

For me customer service is really important. Often I’m criticised for having too high expectations of people. I don’t think I do. I just think most people have very low expectations because they are so used to getting crap service.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  Michelangelo

Last week my brilliant friend Sue booked a meal for four of us through Groupon (and you know how I feel about Groupon) at a London restaurant called The English Pig.  Great concept, unless you are a vegetarian as it only serves pork. Delicious pork.

We got off to a great start, the manager was brilliant, friendly, chatty, told us about how business was tough but the Groupon deal was really working. He recommended several top dishes and we were all suitably impressed.

He took our order, the food arrived, which I have to say was delicious, but sadly, after that the service nose-dived. We had to practically do a Mexican wave to get anyone’s attention to order more drinks, we quite fancied dessert but by the time anyone noticed our frantic waving the moment had passed. So we tried to get the bill, but ended up going to the bar to ask for it as all the staff had disappeared.

Now is it just me, or is this a common occurrence? You arrive at a restaurant and staff are falling over themselves to take your order, often more than one person is prowling round the table interrupting your conversation in their eagerness to serve. As the meal progresses the staff become sparser until you are left stranded, desperately vying for someone’s attention to process the bill.

So we know that the world is a tough place for any business right now. We also know that it’s way harder to and more expensive to get new customers than to keep and develop your old ones.

So why invest in a Groupon deal to get people through the door and then do such a rubbish job that they won’t come back? Or worse still they tell their friends/the whole world about their below par experience?

Now let me make an analogy to fundraising; Groupon is the equivalent of a mass participation event. It’s about getting lots of people through the door. If you do not have a strategy to get those people more engaged, to make them want to come back then you are not making the most of your investment.

So ask yourself; Are you really looking after your donors, or are they going thirsty? Does their experience with your mass participation event leave them full and satisfied, eager to return, or are some leaving feeling short-changed?

How can you use the restaurant analogy to think of ways to engage supporters?

A well used creative thinking technique is to view a challenge from a different perspective, so for example you could use the restaurant analogy in a fundraising context as an example of how not to treat donors, and then do the opposite. You may come up with a fresh perspective on how to engage supporters.  Go on, have a go. I’ve given you some examples below to start you off.

  • Prowl around at the start and lose interest towards the end could translate into – celebrate at the end, make the end of the event really special, make the process of giving money a pleasure
  • Allow them to leave feeling uncared for, like you don’t value their custom could translate into – giving them a reason to come back; a post event party, an opportunity to volunteer/make more of a difference
  • Don’t make any attempt to build a relationship apart from the initial greeting could translate into building great rapport; have dedicated volunteers whose role is just to build rapport with participants

What other ways of developing supporter relationships can you come up with using the restaurant analogy?