How to Alienate an Influencer with Horrible Customer Service.

First, I am not making this up and second, I very rarely complain openly on a social platform about another company underperforming in the customer service area. But I am so angry, that I have to get this out before it subsides, because I think it’s important for management to know when they can do better.

Today my wife and I decided to try some place new for lunch. So it was, that we chose Salad Creations in Naples, Florida.

Now this story has nothing to do with crossed signals. misleading signage, or poor service on the front end-this is all about what happened at the middle and the end of eating. I ordered a Chinese chicken salad-It looked good in the picture and I was starving and anxious to see how it might taste, given that this was my first time. First impression? The salad could have been a little crispier but trust me, I understand, they’re a restaurant focusing on salads.

About mid-way through my salad, I ate a piece of chicken that did not taste right. An alarm of sorts went off in my head but given that there was an ample amount of dressing on it, I forged on.

A few bites later, I had another bad piece of chicken. It just did not taste right. You know what I’m talking about. After I swallowed it, I sat there for a bit and immediately got up and went to the bathroom because I thought I was going to be sick.

So I come back from the bathroom, sit down, and  tell my wife, and am now waiting for the right moment to talk to “the manager”.  I wanted to be discreet and just wanted to let him know that I thought the chicken did not taste “right”. I wasn’t looking for a handout or a new meal and frankly, I wasn’t even sure I could even eat another thing at that point anyway!

So I finally get a chance to tell the manager, at which point he and another employee grab a toothpick each, stick it into some of the chicken*, eat it and look up and say, “No, the chicken tates fine” and go back to what they were previously doing. Really? Did you just blow me off? (*Note: Initially I thought they had stuck a thermometer into the chicken, but my wife told me they stuck toothpicks in the chicken and tasted it themselves…)

So they were essentially saying, “No, you’re wrong, we’re right and that’s that!” Thank you very much Buh-bye? Next!

Which caught me and my wife completely off guard. But then he compounds things. He starts muttering how he eats chicken every day and it’s fine, and some other various, under-his-breath, inaudible things directed at me- He’s obviously perturbed at my complaint. It was almost as if he was calling me out and saying I was full of it.

I’m thinking he can’t possibly be doing this.  I interrupt his rant and say, “Wait a minute, I eat chicken all the time too, and it just did not taste right.”  I’m thinking it was supposed to be and meant to be a constructive comment- but don’t mutter under your breath how I’m wrong and crazy and you’re right. You can’t be serious.

At which point I asked him out loud.

Who is the customer?

He says, “You are, and then says, “All of you people are the same, wanting something for free…”

Did he just say that? Are you kidding me? Did he honestly just say that? I didn’t want a thing. I’m trying to turn this into a teaching lesson.

I asked him again. Who is the customer? I think I was hoping that somehow I could convey telepathically to him about how I write and talk about customer service all the time, and that somewhere, maybe, just maybe,  a light would come on and he would come to his senses and say…

“OMG, You’re right! You are the customer, I’m so sorry, what can we do to make it right?”

Sadly things deteriorated quickly and all he kept saying was that you people are all the same. Was I just stereotyped? I was wearing baggy jeans…Ironically, I thought that Salad Creations had potential, but what my man, the completely irrational manager failed to realize was this:

I am now the latter and not the former…Maybe he just had a bad day, maybe not, but either way, don’t take it out on me.

So what are the lessons here?

  1. The customer will always be right.
  2. The customer can be your brand champion or your arch enemy, it’s your choice.
  3. The customer has a voice it never had before, and it’s getting more powerful.
  4. The customer has the tools to make or break a company
  5. A bad customer experience can go viral

3 questions:

1) I wonder what the response will be?

2) Will they respond at all? and

3) If you were them, how would you handle the situation now?


11 Responses to “How to Alienate an Influencer with Horrible Customer Service.”

  1. 1 Christine Fife September 16, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Wow! Unfortunately, I feel like I have more customer experiences like that one that I do good customer experiences. For me it takes a lot to actually say something if the product/service doesn’t meet my expectations, but if food tastes as if it has spoiled, HELLO!!
    I am a frequent and loyal shopper at Whole Paycheck, oh, I mean Whole Foods because as a store, and in the way they train their employees, they will always differ to the customers taste regardless of if the apple was picked that day or not! Recently I purchased two gluten free snack bars from Whole Foods and when I got home I opened one and the outer coating of chocolate looked like it melted and then cooled and had that dry, whiteish color. I opened the second one and it was the same. About a week later I was in the store again and was going to buy another snack bar but hesitated because I didn’t want another bad bar. I started looking at the box that they were all sitting in to see if I could find a date or something on the box. An employee walked by and asked if I needed something and I explained the story. He pulled one from the box and opened it. The chocolate again looked as if it had gone bad. The employee pulled out a new box and opened one that looked fine. He handed me the open one to keep and made sure I got two more from the new box for free.

    Not only did he inquire if I needed anything, he went way beyond to make sure I was satisfied. I also saw him pull the bad box from the shelf so that no other customer would go through that!

    Hope Salad Creations owner sees your post and does something about his manager asap!

  2. 2 Heather Rast September 16, 2010 at 1:31 am

    I venture to guess your concerns and complaint will fall on unmonitored ears (unless there was a comment card you could mail in?). We’re all aware there is some abuse in the service industry – we’re heard stories (or overheard from our own tables) people claim sub-par service or product, hedging that the standard comp will be offered. Some game the system. But those folks often game every system, and allowances for those *exceptions* are par for operations. However, it sounds like you experienced blatant hostility and inattention to your concerns – you weren’t even catered to for as long as you remained inside the restaurant. That’s practically unheard of (lots happen back o’house, though). Yes, its quite possible your good intentions ran dovetail to a few system-gamers and this managers buttons were pushed too firmly. However I’d look at this beyond a process problem. It must also be a culture and training problem. All 3 strike at the heart of the brand, unfortunately.

  3. 3 Karen E. Lund September 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    One can only hope that the manager will have the same reaction to the chicken that you did, realizing (better late than never) that the chicken was indeed a bit “off.” I feel sorry for the employee who also consumed a bite of chicken.

    The issue, of course, was never about whether the chicken tasted OK to the manager–only whether it tasted OK to a customer (you). To assume otherwise was the first step in a chain of mistakes that almost defies belief.

    Not being familiar with Salad Creations, I checked your link and learned that it’s a chain of restaurants. I doubt you’ll get any satisfaction from the manager at that location, but perhaps the head office will take notice. In which case the manager should be removed and replaced (temporarily) by a hyper-vigilant, type A, micromanaging sort who will inspect every piece of chicken and every shredded carrot that leaves the kitchen until that location has proved itself worthy. The current manager should be re-assigned to another location, under another hyper-vigilant, type A, micromanager, where he will mop floors until he either quits or becomes eligible for Social Security.

    But that’s just my opinion. 😉

    I could tell you about the time a friend found a cigarette butt in his dinner, but I’m not sure your stomach is ready to hear it. Suffice to say we complained to the manager, who offered to not charge us for THAT dish. Whereupon we stood up, said we weren’t paying for ANYTHING and that if he pressed the issue we were calling the Health Department. (Another friend already had her cell phone in hand.) And walked out.

  4. 4 marc meyer September 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    @Karen Completely agree, it had nothing to do with the Managers taste buds or his opinion. Maybe that was why I was astounded that he did not understand the question- Who is the customer? I only asked 3-4 times. Intelligence via osmosis apparently does not work…:)

  5. 5 marc meyer September 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    @Heather, I have a feeling you’re right- I don’t necessarily think it was process as much as it was customer relations. The best example is that doctors are trained to be skilled practitioners, however a lot of times they come up short in bed side manners. This guy might know how to run a restaurant but not know how to deal with the public.

  6. 6 marc meyer September 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    @Christine Whole Foods is a great example. And your story illustrates a great point. What did you just do? You just shared your “positive” story to me and my readers. Hello? Salad Creations? Do you see how positive experiences are shared? They’ll never get it. Ironically they have a Twitter account with 2,000 plus followers I believe-guess who’s not monitoring what is being said? yup…

  7. 7 Dawn K. September 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    In my opinion it sounds like this situation could be the result of 1 of 2 things or at worst – both.

    My guess is that this chain doesn’t have a very going training program for their employees or managers at worst. Why any company wouldn’t spend the time and money to ensure all of their employees successfully completed a service strategies course is beyond me. Every business should realize that these front line workers can make or break their company since they interact with the people keeping their doors open – customers.

    Or if they do have a well put together training program, they managed to hire a “dud” that didn’t retain anything he had learned or doesn’t buy into the philosophy of the customer is always right because they are essentially signing your pay checks.

    I work for a company that sells personal breathalyzers. Believe you me, if there weren’t socially responsible people or the occasional alcoholics, we wouldn’t have a market to be in. So if we treated them like our common sense tells us to and get smart with them when they don’t think to put batteries in the unit and wonder why it isn’t working, we wouldn’t be a leader in our own industry. Instead we politely offer suggestions to them so they have a positive experience with our product, because we all have those human moments where we take a brief mental vacation. 🙂

  8. 8 jeff levine September 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Good Morning,
    Let me start this off with a sincere apology.My name is Jeff Levine and I’m the CEO of Salad Creations. I received your email via Google alerts this morning. The “guest” as we call them is ALWAYS right! By reading your blog, it is clear to me that you understand customer service, and that we dropped the ball in this situation. This is not acceptable.We truly pride our selves on a great guest experience, which you did not receive. I will be reaching out to the franchisee of that location today to discuss your situation, and I hope you accept my apology for this lack of judgment by the manager. I know your intent was not to get a free lunch, but I would like to personally come to Naples and have lunch with you and your wife (on me of course),so you can experience Salad Creations the way it should be experienced, FRESH, great tasting food in a clean environment. I truly believe that a great guest experience is a necesity in building your business, and have prided myself on building my business on this mantra for years. Thank you for taking the time to express your experience, and I hope you take me up on this offer.
    Jeff Levine

  9. 9 marc meyer September 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    @Jeff I’ll give you credit, I had wondered if anyone really cared within your organization. Good to see that the CEO still does! We’ll talk offline. Thanks for reaching back across. Would have been easier to not just say anything as some are wont to do!

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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.


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