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The Customer is Always Right

I dine out a fair amount. I love to try new things. That includes cuisine and drinks. But it was during a recent visit to an English pub in Clapham Junction (in the London borough of Wandsworth) that I realized how I’ve come to take customer service for granted and how very important it is.

I don’t think there has ever been a time when I’ve eaten at a restaurant and had an issue that wasn’t resolved in a professional and timely manner. That was until the second Sunday in March when my family and I went to eat lunch at a pub that is known for its wide range of rotating beers and fine malt whiskies and gins. The pub prides itself on serving quality cask-ale and has a Cask Marque seal of approval, which is an award given to pubs that meet stringent beer serving standards in areas such as temperature, appearance, aroma and taste.

On the pub’s website, it has information about a beer blog, tasting notes for its winter ales and information about a London Ale Trail. It looked like the perfect place to sample some British beers and have a nice lunch with friends and family. (And possibly write a column on my experience there.)

My high expectations for the afternoon were deflated very quickly.

Three of the six of us drank beer. One person knew exactly what he wanted. The other two needed some help—one was interested in a light, easy drinking beer, while the other wanted a dark style beer. Our waiter had no suggestions (other than a Carling) and couldn’t provide a beer list explaining that because the beers change daily, the pub did not have one.

(A chalkboard with what beers were on tap would have been a simple and easy solution for that.) “Ok, can you name some of the beers you have then?” We were met with a blank stare and a Guinness was ordered by default. I also would have had a beer, but without someone being able to tell me what the options were, I was put off and went with a soft drink.
Drinks aside, our food didn’t come out at the same time and when it finally did all come out (after about a 40-minute wait) it was cold.

Our waiter never came back to the table to check on us, no condiments were brought and an extra plate was forgotten along with a side order. You get the idea.

Words with the manager resulted in our drinks being taken off the bill and a fresh, hot bowl of fries. Later she would also take off one of our meals—reluctantly. Offering a simple “I’m sorry” and walking away with very little concern that customers were unhappy with the service.  

There is more to this story, but I realize this has become a bit of a rant. However, hopefully it’s one that can be learned from.

Here are a few tips.

Tip 1: Educate your staff on the drinks that your establishment has available and teach them how to make diners feel comfortable asking for a beer, in this case, that they may not know the name of. How? Make the wait staff experts in different beer styles and teach them how to pass that knowledge to the customer.

Tip 2: Learn how to upsell. Take a familiar beer and compare it to one at a higher price point to drive additional revenue.

Tip 3: A positive attitude can go a long way. Oh, and the customer is always right.

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