Good service – getting the basics right

We notice it when it’s not there.  Good service that is.

Today, I went with my family to a restaurant that really made me notice the lack of service. It wasn’t the food itself or the environment per say but it was all about how it was managed.  It was a carvery where there was no queue management or process, rather fend for yourself.  They had crammed in so many people that there was barely room to move and the queue for the carvery took about 25 minutes to get through.  When you got to the servery, the food was presented in a canteen style and had clearly been under hot lamps for most of the day so far.

The skill level of the staff was low and this is not to denigrate them in any way – they were doing the best they could in the circumstances – but rather to recognise the importance of focusing on how the customer actually engages with your service or product in order to create a positive experience.  The failure here was in the design of the experience which basically couldn’t cope with numbers and therefore we (a family group ranging from age 2 – 65) felt uncomfortable, unwelcome and generally grumpy.

And to top it all, the cost of this meal was the same, if not slightly more, than the same meal at another restaurant.  In fact, that other restaurant serves locally sourced food, served by skilled staff, in a spacious room with comfortable remind me why I should spend my money at the first restaurant?

So in terms of designing events then, we need to remember the marvellous Maslow (1943) and his hierarchy of needs.  If we keep these in mind, we can create experiences that meet the basic operational needs of human beings – space, food, water, security – thereby enabling our audience to enjoy the creative and engaging experience of the event content and environment. Without these core operational needs being satisfied, we as humans find it increasingly difficult to enjoy ourselves.

For this rubbish restaurant, all they needed to do was make us feel looked after.  Make us feel that we weren’t just giving them money.  None of us had been to this restaurant before but it’s local, about halfway between Falmouth and Helston in Cornwall, and they had a perfect opportunity to make us regulars, to access a lifetime value of us as customers. Bearing in mind that the lifetime value of a restaurant customer is potentially thousands of pounds, this is a significant opportunity but they  missed it. Epic fail.

All it would take is clearing the plates so there is space on the table, taking one table out of the restaurant so we don’t feel like cattle on our way to slaughter, welcoming us to the place and enabling us to have the best possible time together.  My Mum is in a wheelchair and not one of the staff spoke to her or helped us in and out of the very narrow entrance way. It doesn’t take much to make us happy but we really notice when it’s not there.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events





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