On the last Saturday in October 2004, nine years ago, my wife Gimalle and I moved into our brand-new home in a newly completed high-rise condo building.
Moving day is always a day of hard work and by around 8 PM in the evening we were both exhausted and hungry.
Having nothing but an empty fridge, we set out to explore the neighborhood in search of a meal. About a block from our new home we discovered a small pizza joint and went inside and ordered a pizza to take home.
Some 15 or 20 minutes later we walked back with a freshly baked pizza and sat in our freshly acquired living room on our freshly arranged furniture and devoured every morsel of that pizza.
It was delicious. So much so that Gimalle felt compelled to call the owner of the pizzeria and tell him how much we had enjoyed his pizza and let him know he would be seeing us regularly in the future.
Gimalle dialed the number and the conversation went something like this:
“Hello Fred’s Pizza.”
“Oh hi. My husband and I just picked up a pizza from you about 20 minutes ago and…”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“What do you mean?”
“What’s wrong with the pizza?”
“Nothing! The pizza was delicious and I just wanted to call and tell you how much we enjoyed it and to say thank you.”
Long, silent pause.
“Well, thank you. I don’t really know what to say. No one has ever called before to tell me how good my pizza is. I thought you were calling to complain.”
Gimalle again assured the man she was calling simply to thank him and hung up the phone.
His response though, was really interesting, and yet not surprising. I believe his expectation that when one receives a call from a customer it is usually to deliver a complaint, was justified as, that had been his previous experience.
For the past seven years I have served as a member of our condo board of directors and have come to understand exactly what that expectation means.
It is extremely rare for any of us on the board to receive any kind of accolade for any of the work we’ve done or for the hours of time that we volunteer to try and make our home and property a better place.
And yet there is no shortage of complaints. It seems each and every time one of our residents is unhappy with anything they are instantly ready to voice their concerns and opinions.
I realized that this is an all too common practice and, in the interests of honesty, must admit that I too have been guilty of this practice in the past.
For many years Gimalle have taken it upon ourselves to seek great examples of customer service and go out of our way to ensure that those responsible are recognized and praised for their efforts.
The surprised response by the pizzeria owner all those years ago was, we have learned, not uncommon as many people have told us that the number of complaints they hear about themselves, their staff and the quality of their service far outweigh the relatively few compliments they do receive.
A wise old saying reminds us that “what gets rewarded gets repeated.” And yet so few of us take it upon ourselves to take one extra moment to thank and show appreciation for great service when we receive it.
An experience I had this week reminded me of that incident from nine years ago, made me appreciative of how rare excellence service is, and of the need to reward it when presented with it.
Earlier in the week a colleague and I were having lunch at a restaurant one block from the office. I have been in this restaurant several times and have, on one occasion, even exchanged business cards with the manager.
My colleague had an unfortunate experience in her interaction with our server who was following instructions from the kitchen. In our opinion, a poor decision had been made and we were both somewhat surprised that a restaurant of this caliber would risk annoying, or even losing, a customer over a trivial matter.
As we were finishing our meal a young lady , who I knew to be a manger-in-training, came over and asked how we were enjoying the meal. My colleague relayed her earlier experience and expressed her disappointment at the decision made.
She seemed a bit surprised and rather uncertain as to what to do. When she did respond, she attempted to explain and defend the decision made by the kitchen staff and, after a brief, uncomfortable silence, wished us a good day and moved on to chat with another table.
Our discussion on the brief walk back to the office, centered on whether we would go back to this restaurant.
Early the next morning my phone rang and a female voice on the other end introduced herself as the young manager-in-training from the restaurant.
She told me she was calling because she realized she’d been absolutely wrong in the way she dealt with our situation, explained that she was did not know how to reach my colleague but had found my business card in the manager’s office and asked me to convey her deepest apologies to my colleague and to invite her back to the restaurant to receive both a personal apology and a complementary meal for herself and a guest.
I immediately went down the hall and shared this conversation. My colleague was delighted and went back to the restaurant that day for lunch with a friend. She later reported to me that she had an exceptional meal.
A wise old saying reminds us of the process of dealing with our mistakes. It tells us, “mess up, face up, dress up.”
In other words, when we make a mistake, fix it and make things right.
This young lady did exactly that. She showed great courage and initiative in calling. She displayed maturity beyond her years in realizing the importance of keeping customers satisfied.
I am always been a great believer in rewarding great service and, as I mentioned earlier, make it a point of bringing terrific service to the attention not only of those who provide it but also to their bosses.
I’m also a great believer in promoting those businesses that provide great service so if you would like to have a fabulous meal and be really well looked after, and if you are in Calgary, go to a restaurant called “1410”, on 17th Avenue SW and ask for Heather.
I promise you will get both. Terrific service and fabulous food.
Till we read again.
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