Customer Relations? Where is it?

What has happened to customer service?  Common courtesy?  Kindness?  It is stunning in today’s economy that service industries are not focusing on their customer service as a way to maintain their business.  We had an unexpected evening out recently where three separate businesses showed they could lose six customers.  And these former clients will be happy to tell others about their negative experiences.


On a busy, whirlwind weekend Bob and I were invited to Chicago with two other couples, including my brother Steve and his wife.  This crazy evening began with an oversized limousine in our driveway to drive to Chicago for the evening.  Though the itinerary clearly stated we were picking up another couple, making several stops then going to a famous Chicago restaurant, the driver was frustrated that we had to stop to pick up our friends.  And what is with limo drivers who do not have GPS today???  And expect their clients to direct them?


On a surprisingly low-traffic Saturday night, we were actually early for our reservation.  So, we decided to stop at the bar in the new Trump Tower, since we were all dressed up as an extra treat.


“I hate driving in Chicago,” the driver commented several times driving through the busy streets.  “I especially hate it on a Saturday night.”


We directed him to Trump Tower, but several mis-cues on the driver’s part led us to being led out on Lower Wacker Drive.  Hey—I was in a limo and wanted to be let out by the front door, not downstairs by the dude peeing and then clanking up metal stairs in my heels.  Ah well, it was a gorgeous night to wander.


Trump Tower, beautiful inside.  The desk people were friendly, directing us to the bar, which directly faces the Wrigley Tower clock.  Great views, lovely modern setting, people filling most tables when we arrived.  We ordered an expensive bottle of champagne to share before dinner, telling the waitress we had only a short time, but we waited-and waited more-for her to bring the bottle for us.  So we rushed through our drinks, a bit frustrated.  I noticed as we left that other tables had also emptied out fairly quickly.  Worth a second chance, I think.


We then headed to my favorite chef’s restaurant, to be the highlight of the evening.  We directed the limo driver as he lamented further about Chicago, adding that he also hated wet toilet paper, in case you are wondering.


They had  changed the long-made reservation from four people to six that morning, to accommodate our growing group. The greeter had seated us, a kindly man.  Then we waited, and waited, no waiter appearing.  It’s a bit embarrassing to have to ask the host in a formal restaurant if someone is going to wait on you.


Our waitress acted throughout the meal as if she was doing us a favor by serving us.  As if WE should be thankful to be eating at this establishment.  I worked in the restaurant business for ten years; and I would never have treated customers like this—especially a party of six who ordered several appetizers, meals, several rounds of drinks and (possibly) dessert.


Our reservation was later in the evening, so we were extremely hungry when we sat down for our meal.  We wanted to order a couple appetizers, but since the restaurant offered both price fixe meals and a regular menu we were told by the waitress that “the kitchen prefers if you order your meal together” and would not take the appetizer order.  What? “The kitchen” would not let us order?


I requested a partial change in an entrée, which she needed to ask the kitchen if she could make.  When two of the men in our group heard my change, they requested the same one.  She was NOT happy.


The food divine, the sauces exquisite.  But our waitress never came to explain the meals once we got them, ask if we had any questions, or ask if we needed anything, including more cocktails.


It saddens me that I probably will not choose to return to my favorite restaurant in the near future, this being the second visit there this year with excellent food and sub-par service.  I will watch this chef on TV and continue to enjoy his cookbooks (spine is broken it’s so overused). I work really hard for my money.  When I choose to indulge and spend it on myself by going out for a lovely evening, I want to be treated with respect, relax and let someone wait on me for a change.


I so enjoy the owner and his cooking—and he always seems like an educated and fun-to-be with man– that I am not going to name his restaurant here, but I am sending him a separate email about the experience.


Once our meal was over, our limo was waiting out front for the drive home.  The highlight of the ride home was when I realized my brother was on the phone with someone—who turned was the limo driver who mistakenly called him instead of his friend.


“Hey, George, I’m on my way back from where I was coming from,” or some gibberish before he realized it was Steve.  Then, “oh, you are Steve in the back seat, aren’t you?”


We had an incredibly fun night of laughter and jokes despite the lack of service from three individuals.  But it did make me realize that customer relations is the key to keeping buyers satisfied and coming back for more.  It’s something to think about for all of us in business, no matter what the industry.  C


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