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.


Where is your wife?

Had breakfast in the Dubai Marina with a Turkish colleague. I took a taxi back to the area where my hotel is. The taxi driver was a man in his mid 40s from Bangladesh.

After 30 seconds, the conversations went something like this:

Taxi driver: Where is your wife?

Me: Ehrm, I’m not married.

Taxi driver: Ooh, marriage is great. You should get married!

Me: Maybe in five years’ time or something like that.

Taxi driver: Where are you from?

Me: Sweden.

Taxi driver: You don’t look Swedish?

Me: No, I was born in Sri Lanka, but adopted etc. Are you married?

Taxi driver: Yes, I’m married. My wife is in Bangladesh. But I hope to go to Britain. Marry a British woman. One wife in Bangladesh, one in the UK. I meet women here that say come with me, but I want to choose one myself.

Then uses language that is quite ‘colourful’ and not too flattering about British women. It ends with him buying me a cup of tea, and then driving away to find a new customer to entertain.

The Art of Differentiation

Beating the competition through service differentiation is a topic that fascinates me deeply. Product is simply not enough.

Apple is known for making great products, but their whole service chain is equally impressive. I have a number of friends who tell good things about how Apple’s in-store customer care reps have resolved their  iPhone problems. These friends of mine will naturally give Apple repeat business.

Businesses use different strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition. RyanAir doesn’t try to be Lufthansa for a reason. Both are profitable, both fly people from point A to B. Their difference make them profitable as they fill different market needs.

The greatest differentiation challenge arises when you are competing for the same market, using   a nearly identical product,  in the same place, at roughly the same price. This is a challenge facing all businesses from telecom operators, to hotels and airlines.

Some would argue that it is then your people matter more than ever, and I am prepared to agree. People, processes and physical evidence to be precise. What do you think?

Teliacommunications and Freetradedom

TeliaSonera has received a bit of stick in the press for doing business with countries that may use telecom network technology against its citizens.

But even if you know that a country may use technology for bad, should firms stop doing business with them? Lars Nyberg, CEO of TeliaSonera, quoted in Swedish media the example of how mobile technology has powered the Arab Spring.

Isolation has not really done anything good for North Korea or Cuba. The gents at the top can get around the restrictions imposed by the international community, whilst the people gain nothing at all.

From what I have seen so far, I am stronger than ever in my belief that isolation and sanctions play in the hands of dictators. Education and free trade will open up this world.

The UAE is a great example of how the government encourages an open dialogue with the rest of the world, whilst making gains thanks to international trade.

Welcome to my online home


This is my first post on this new blog, so I thought a ‘welcome’ with an exclamation mark would be most appropriate. I do like writing, but seem to never take the time.

At the moment I am based in the UAE. I have been here since the middle of January, and it is a country I am enjoying so far. After a month in Abu Dhabi, I am now based in Dubai for while.

I am a strong believer in short and frequent updates, but I am not confident I will be able to practise what I preach!

Again, welcome!