The Damage Negative Engagements Can do

An article by Ian Graham of Swayed Greyhound about how one incident of bad customer serice can affect your business for years

When I was a young man 20 years ago! I had just returned from a fantastic holiday with my girlfriend. We’d had a really good time with great service and great food.

We landed in the morning and had a few jobs to do around the town before we returned back to work the next day so we spent the afternoon picking up our various items and then decided at about 4 o’clock that we could really do with something to eat so we popped in to a local café in the town centre.

We walked into the café and went to grab a seat and a surly woman from the back of the room snarled ‘Yes?’ aggressively. We didn’t pay much attention to this and I went up to the counter to order food which was coffees and bacon sandwiches. I could tell the lady serving us was in a very bad mood but being happy having just returned from holiday I paid no attention and returned to my table.

Very quickly (almost too quickly) the lady stomped over and slammed the food on the table. As is the law with bacon sandwiches we opened the sandwich up to add sauce and discovered that the bacon looked raw and we suspected that it had been microwaved which made the bread soggy and inedible.

At this point we thought ‘We are not putting up with this, we’ve just returned from holiday, we’ve had a wonderful time, we’ve experienced great food and great service from people who have been much busier than this lady.’

We finished the coffees and walked up to the counter saying we would pay for the coffees but not for the food. This made her angrier which she demonstrated very well verbally and non-verbally, her main response was ‘I should really ring the police if you’re not going to pay for the food’. I explained that the way in which the food prepared was not acceptable and here only response was ‘Well that’s how we serve things in here’ (slamming change on counter) and I said ‘That’s probably why you’re not very busy then!’

I did not return to this café for 20 years until my fiancé persuaded me to go in a couple of years ago. The people who own the café have changed selling good value home cooked local food which is always delicious. It’s now one of my favourite places to go and the service is always great and impressive even to a customer service trainer like me who can be a bit picky!

It’s amazing how one small action, conversation or bad member of staff having a bad day can affect the way customer’s view a business and how long that can last. In the 20 years I avoided this place I always had a bad feeling whenever I walked past it and if anybody ever asked me about it I never said anything positive.

Every single customer engagement is vital. Every time you engage with someone it can shape views and feelings towards your business so the next time you engage with the customer just think ‘Are they going to leave this conversation with a positive view of me, my staff and my business?’

Have a cautious day