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Customer Service Situation: Satisfaction, Loyalty, and Empowerment

One of my favorite restaurants was The Crab Shanty, located in Ellicott City. I took my family to dinner to use a gift certificate that was given to me for my Birthday (yes, 39 again!). The food and service were great, as usual. In fact, our server has been with the restaurant for the past 11 years. Upon receiving the bill, I placed the gift certificate inside the holder and waited for my $34.02 in change.

The waiter returned to advise me that the balance would be returned to me, not as currency, but as a new gift certificate. It seems that the policy of the restaurant is to reissue the gift certificate if the change due is over $20. I complained to the waiter that this was inconvenient especially especially as I wanted the remaining cash to leave a tip. He commented that he had been complaining about the policy for years without success.

On the way out, we met an elderly couple from our church that just happen to be talking to the restaurant manager. Of course, I had to voice my displeasure to the manager concerning the gift certificate experience but only after I complimented the food and service. To my surprise, the manager defended the policy stating that it is the same policy that Home Depot and Target use for their “gift cards”. I was enraged! Nothing I could say could convince this manager that I was right to want the money that was rightfully mine and not to have to return to use my $34.02!

Now that you know the situation, here is what I think the correct response should be. This is how Ritz Carlton or Dell Computer would have handled it. Policies are made to be broken and employees should be empowered to do what is right for the customer and make the entire experience wonderful for the customer. The manager himself had an opportunity to make it right rather than defend his policy.

If nothing else, he could have apologized, empathized and thanked me for making the suggestion. I left the restaurant feeling like no one understood or cared for me. Further, that I would never want to work for a company that does not listen to their employees. Our waiter also commented that they have been trying to get larger size beer mugs for the customers but also without success. The bottom line to this story is to demonstrate the importance of making every touch point with a customer count.

The entire customer service experience is what really makes the difference and every single employee should be looking for any opportunity to contribute. It is truly hard to find and develop loyal employees and loyal customers. The way to do it starts with good listening and true caring. The defining difference though is finding and taking advantage of opportunities to personalize the experience. The waiter and manager missed this opportunity. However, I am thankful to them, since it allowed me to write this article for us all to learn by.

I will return to Crab Shanty to use my gift certificate and I will include a copy of this article to the manager. I am sure Hudson and Mid-Atlantic do not always get it right and I can only hope that our customers see the good in us to take the time to let us know when the experience falls short of the very best.


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