Getting the Basics Right

You are selling strawberries at a busy farmers’ market, and you are advertising them as ready to eat.

One of your first customers points out that the strawberries are not washed, and asks if you can provide water or wash the strawberries prior to selling them.

You acknowledge there is an issue, and promise to think about it. However, bringing running water (or running away to wash the strawberries) requires effort. So you decide against it.

The weather is warm, and suddenly the ice cream stall across the street is becoming very popular. You decide to offer complimentary ice cream to your patrons. You phone a friend, asking her to drive past the supermarket and buy ice cream for your stall.

The ice cream arrives, and you start serving up strawberries with complimentary ice cream. Still with a sandy aftertaste…

Los Angelagos

May 2012 will go down as personal high in terms of countries I have been in within a single month. Qatar, UAE, UK, Sweden, USA and Nigeria to name them all.

Right now I am in Lagos, which is Nigeria’s commercial capital. Very little happens quickly in Nigeria, but the people are warm and friendly. With my appearance, I do confuse people a lot. A Nigerian lady that sat next to me on the plane from Dubai thought I was Ethiopian. I may look Ethiopian, but I am a Sri Lankan-born Swedish business consultant from Ireland…!

I have no idea how long I will be in Nigeria. Ideally, I will be here until September, but project circumstance could mean that I leave after a couple of weeks, to then return later in the year.

No matter how long my stay here will be, I am looking forward to support our client and learn more about the country and its people. My Nigerian friend Lois from university has been generous and a great local guide. Together with her family and friends she has made it easy for me to feel at home after just three days here.

And yes, the May vacation in California was amazingly good! Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway was a dream come true.

Service Recovery in Dubai

Yesterday I had a great late lunch at a Korean restaurant here in Dubai. Tonight, I went there for dinner, expecting food as terrific as the day before. Sadly, it turned out to be a disappointment.

I went for their flagship set menu. Soup, noodles, deep-fried shrimp, deep fried dumplings, marinated beef and sashimi (raw fish). All to be washed down with premium Saudi non-alcoholic beer.

The sashimi had not thawed (had been frozen). I had to wipe the frying fat of the dumplings. The meat was of a bad cut. I had to remind the waitress to bring rice.

The soup came in when I had nearly finished with my meal, so I refused the soup. This was the worst Korean meal I have had. And I told them so.

Lots of “I’m sorry sir” from the waitress, and she assured me she had told the chef (which I made clear that I expected her to do).

I paid the full amount on the bill, and was never offered a discount. I refused the fruit salad that was being brought in after my complaint. I am not sure whether this fruit salad was an attempt of service recovery or if it was something they would bring in anyway.

So, what lessons can be learnt from this exercise? As self-appointed restaurant consultant, I will make a few suggestions.

* Establish what a staff member can/can not do when a customer complains

* If you offer something complimentary in an attempt to compensate, express this verbally prior to delivering the compensation. (for example: “I’m very sorry we did not meet your expectations. I have informed  the manager, and we/I would like to offer you a dessert as our apology. Would that be acceptable to you?”)

* Make sure to ask the customer once during the meal if the food is ok.

Most customers understand – and will even accept – when things go wrong. What they won’t accept is the business not trying to put things right.