Complaints or Compliments

The other night, my wife presented me with two dinner options: either I could cook dinner, or I could take her to the Mediterranean Deli. I grabbed my keys.

IMG_0071Customers Make Decisions Based on a Variety of Drivers

I have certain expectations when I’m the customer at a restaurant: the staff must be attentive, friendly, and hygienic; the food must be tasty, fresh, and good (not great, mind you. I’m no foody).

The deli hires excellent staff. For example, this one time in the bathroom, I saw a server wash his hands just because.

As for food, the deli serves more types of falafel and hummus than Wal-mart sells breakfast cereals.

Customers Spot Poor Quality

But the quality had declined over the last year to the point that I no longer considered the deli my favorite place to eat. The mixed Mediterranean vegetables, for example, gradually featured less mix and more nasty veggies. And the calamata olives, pepperoncinis, tahini and other sauces no longer tasted fresh. Finally, the portion size shrank, the meat on the gyros going from heap to hint.

A Non-Complaining Customer Doesn’t Mean a Happy Customer

My dad used to send back food that hadn’t been prepared to his liking. It kind of embarrassed me as a kid. So I developed a stoic philosophy about unsatisfactory restaurant food: When I don’t like the food, I just don’t go back. Helping cement this approach was the experience I gained as a restaurant cook in my teen years. I know the sort of “non-ingredients” that get added to the plate of a complaining customer.

Anyhow, when we got to the deli, I ordered my usual…and expected the worst.

But on this trip, the food turned out to be excellent.

Compliments Transform People…

Are you more likely to register a complaint or a compliment? Do you go out of your way to express appreciation for good service / products? I don’t mean if a shop owner asks, “How was everything?” that you say, “Good.” When have you gone out of your way to register, not a complaint, but a compliment?

Before leaving, I asked a server to speak to the manager on duty. A slight wave of nausea crossed his face as he swallowed, nodded, and led me to the back.

Here’s a synopsis of what I said and how the manager responded:

1. I’ve been eating here a long time because of great people/great food.

(Manager smiles)

2. I’ve stopped coming here because the quality of food dropped.

(Manager tilts head like a dog hearing a monster…or perhaps a bag of chips opening somewhere)

3. For example… [I provided specific examples].

(Manager gives me a no hablo inglés stare)

4. But tonight the food was outstanding.

(Manager straightens)

5. I wanted to tell you that I noticed and appreciate the quality I received.

(Manager nods as if to say, “I do what I can do….”)

6. Please feel free to pass this on to the owner and the staff.

(Manager provides rigorous affirmation that my suggestion will be followed)

7. I’m glad to be able to say that I’ll be back soon!

(Manager extends his hand with a warm smile)

When You’re the Customer (or Parent, or Boss, or Spouse, or Co-Worker, or…)

Both complaints as well as compliments get heard, felt, and repeated. As a customer, sure, say something when you’re dissatisfied. But then, too, please go out of your way when you’re thrilled. Don’t be shy. Spread the happiness. Have a “hair trigger” for dropping compliments when service delights you. The world needs the transformative power that a simple compliment accomplishes.

And the best thing about compliments? I’ve never known a cook to spit on the food of someone who drops one too many kind words…


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