My wife and I recently made reservations at one of our favorite French restaurants here in Las Vegas. The setting is intimate, it only seats a handful of people and with impeccable service, it’s become a popular spot. When we showed up on time, the restaurant was packed. The owner greeted us and told us our table wasn’t ready. When you make a reservation somewhere, you typically have an expectation to be seated immediately. If you’re impatient, like me, and that’s not what happens, you might get cranky and consider going elsewhere.
But on this particular night, the owner of the restaurant did something remarkable. He was extremely apologetic. He took the time to explain to us that many of the diners were chatting over dessert and that tables weren’t clearing as quickly as he’d hoped. He asked us to give him 5 to 10 minutes. We waited.
A few minutes later, he came out and ushered us to the bar, where he brought us drinks and an appetizer - on the house. He continued to apologize and within 10 minutes our table was ready. We ended up having a great evening.
On the drive home, it occurred to me that what could’ve been a lost customer for this restaurant owner (impatient, hungry diners who had secured their table with a reservation) instead created loyal customers who are now singing the owner’s praises to their friends (and writing a blog about it).
It’s a fact of business that we’re going to make mistakes. Our businesses will never be perfect or without problems.
This guy had a full restaurant, slow customers, not enough help and too much business. He could’ve easily passed that frustration on to us. Many of us have experienced the business owner who does just that. But this guy didn’t. He was kind, he was patient, and he took ownership of the problem.
Many of us know what we should be doing when we encounter a problem or mistake. What this owner did was not overly complicated, but often in the day-to-day chaos of business, we lose sight of these three fundamentals.
It costs nine times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer. And it’s no secret that one unhappy customer will tell (on average) 6 other potential customers about their experience. The only way to guard against a complaint or a negative review is with an honest, humble, and accountable approach.
Most of us understand that perfection is not a reality (even though we strive for it). If you approach your customers with humility, you’ll inspire empathy and trust. And it’s likely
you’ll gain a client for life. By the way, the French restaurant is called Oh La La. And it’s spectacular.