The other night my wife and I went out to dinner. The customer service was quite good and the food was excellent. However, we might hesitate before going back.
As we were seated, I noticed one of the other guests had a delicious looking entrée. I asked the server about it and he said it was jambalaya, which is a Cajun rice dish with sausage, shrimp, and several other savory ingredients. So, I ordered it. When it came out, it was less about rice and more about sauce. And, there was a large amount of seafood, chicken, and sausage. It looked different that the other guest's entrée, but it was delicious.
The owner came over and I commented how delicious it was. I also mentioned that it had more sauce than expected. I wasn't complaining. I was complementing the chef, so I thought.
Her response was appreciative. She then went on to tell me that the kitchen staff was a bit over-worked that day, as there was a special event that was causing them a little stress in the kitchen. The jambalaya I saw at the other table was more typical than what I was served – more rice and less seafood.
So, here is the point. There was great food and great service, but I got a peek behind the curtain when the owner revealed that she was willing to let a meal come out of the kitchen that was inconsistent from what was typically served. My food was good and had more seafood than usual because the kitchen staff was moving too fast and not paying attention to detail. What would have happened if the meal was prepared with less seafood than usual? Would the owner have turned her head to that as well?
More importantly, what will happen when I come back next time and order the same dish, and it comes out the way it is supposed to be prepared? I'll probably notice the difference. I might wonder why there isn't as much of that delicious seafood they gave me the last time I ordered this dish. I might say something to the server or owner. Or not. I might just wonder what I will get when I come back the next time – if I ever come back at all.
Essentially the restaurant, by accident, has created a false expectation. The sure way to confuse your customers and make them lose confidence in you and your restaurant is to deliver an inconsistent experience. I can't stress enough how important consistency is to any business. There must be consistency in your product, your customer service – the entire customer experience.
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is a customer service expert, hall-of-fame speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. He works with organizations to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus, a customer service training program that helps organizations develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. For more information contact (314) 692-2200 or www.Hyken.com