Don’t Mess with my Chocolate

Customers Don’t Want to Hear Your Excuses

With any business, sometimes things go wrong; a glitch happens, an error. For whatever reason, the customer did not receive the product or service your business said it would provide. Often customers are fine with it, as long as you take ownership of the mistake you made and resolve it. Basically, deliver what you said you would.

As customers, we often like to hear the reason, so we can understand. But the last thing we want to hear are excuses for why it wasn’t done right in the first place. It’s a passive-defensive response, guaranteed to irritate the customer, and customers may question your consistency in providing future products/services.

Here’s a classic example, it happened a few weeks ago at a Boston Pizza in Lethbridge, AB. Now, I’ve been to this chain in various cities. They deliver as they advertise; it’s consistent. In fact, their Chocolate Explosion Cake is amazing! I’ve got a substance abuse problem with chocolate and their portions are huge!

So, I finished delivering a full day seminar, missed lunch, it’s 5:oo, and I’m ravenous. Across the street from the hotel I notice a Boston Pizza. Great service, however the potatoes aren’t hot and the salmon is overcooked and hard on the ends but no problem. I’m hungry, I’ll eat the middle bits, more than enough food here and it’s still delicious. What I’m really pining for is my chocolate explosion that I deserve and have been dreaming of since I walked in the door. Ooh, ooh, I can’t wait!

The moment it was placed before me, I knew something was wrong. It’s supposed to look chocolaty brown with chunks of white cheesecake in the center laced throughout the soft, smooth mousy/praline like substance being held up by a bottom layer of crumbled chocolate cookie. Ohh, how it cuts with a fork. Ahh, the textures. I had my coffee and Globe & Mail to savor it with; it was all planned! But instead, it was frozen solid, layered with frost, looked mostly white. It was impenetrable. I couldn’t get my fork or knife through it.

In that moment, I felt a hint of righteous indignation. I didn’t order a rock hard frozen cake, and why would you serve it to me like that in the 1st place? With beautiful politeness, I confirm with the server I have appreciated her service, yet did not expect or want a frozen cake. “Could I have it the way you usually serve it?” She offers to ‘put it in the microwave’ for me. Now, for those readers who are not shocked by this comment, perhaps this blog isn’t for you. If your mouth is open with surprise, wait, theres more . . .

You can’t microwave a dessert item like that and perhaps she just doesn’t know. “Could you please see if the chef or kitchen staff have a different suggestion?” I ask. She returns with a message “He said all they can do is microwave it and it’s not his fault. The guy who was supposed to take this dessert out of the freezer forgot so there is nothing he can do about it.” Hmm, I ponder – if I was told about this oversight before being served, I could have chosen to receive it frozen, or change my dessert order.

Now, as a customer, I didn’t feel like being a problem. The caramel/chocolate sauces were already drizzled over it and the dollops of whipped cream were starting to chill against my cake. There can be a solution to this without ruining it, wasting it, or having the restaurant feel they have to give it to me for free.

“Would you please prepare my dessert to go? I’ll let it thaw and enjoy it in my hotel room later.” I’m feeling smug as I’ve created a win/win – the restaurant has an opportunity to keep the customer happy and I can have my cake and eat it too . . . well, when it thaws out, that is.

However, I must say I was surprised when my to go dessert was delivered to me by the manager. He starts off by stating how it wasn’t his or the chef’s fault it was frozen, I heard the same lame excuse blaming someone else’s forgetfulness and they would have happily micro-waved it for me. Yet the coup de grace for me was when I looked at my dessert. It was naked, no caramel/chocolate drizzles, no dollop of whipped cream. I mean where’s the customer service love in that! Ouch. I didn’t feel like being an inconvenience by asking it to be prepared as it is advertised, I’m still paying full price for it.

You see, this story goes beyond mere cake. It’s a reflection of that particular management team, the leader, and how they train their team in customer service. As a franchise owner, I believe you have an expectation to maintain the standards of the chain – you’re part of the overall team success. Adhere to your standards of consistency. When there is a glitch in your quality control, please remember, customers don’t want to hear your excuses. Give them options and just do the right thing.

A glitch only turns into a problem when the customer has not been treated professionally and with consideration.

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