Poor Service, Poor Management – or Both?

Posted: September 4, 2012 in Customer Service
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Being involved in delivering training to improve customer service I am mindful of the need to compliment when service is good and I make a point of doing this. I am very critical, however, when service is poor, particularly if management and staff in a business seem oblivious and the need for improvement. This was recently highlighted in a visit to a local Pub/Restaurant where I had two business meetings. My experience was of appalling customer service exacerbated by poor management and it just highlighted to me that management sets the tone for a culture of good – or bad – customer service.

At 1:50pm I entered the premises. I was early for my meeting (at 2pm) and I went to the bar to order a Coke. There was one male member of staff behind the bar and three customers waiting ahead of me.  The barman eventually served me almost 15 minutes after I had arrived and started by saying ‘Are you having lunch?’ I replied, ‘I’m not sure, I am waiting for a business colleague, I’ll have a large coke for now please’. His reply; ‘I hope he doesn’t keep you waiting as long as I have’.  I was quite shocked at this retort and so I said ‘some more staff would help’. The barman made no reply but had a shocked expression as though astonished I had the cheek to make a  comment.

A few minutes later, my colleague arrived and so I returned to the bar, which was now unattended. A second customer came along side me. The barman returned and went to serve the second customer, who pointed out that I was first. The barman looked and said ‘Don’t worry, he’s been served.’  I said, ‘No, I haven’t, I’d like a coke, please.’

After serving the two of us the bar was again left unattended.   A short time later, despite customers being at the bar, five staff from the restaurant area were standing in a group at the end of the bar talking and laughing. No one seemed interested in serving customers, who were obviously agitated but said nothing.  Eventually a female member of staff appeared from behind the scenes but as soon as the customers had been served the bar was left unattended again.

Around 3:30pm a young man in uniform appeared behind the bar and started replenishing bottles and glasses. A customer asked him for a drink and the staff member said he couldn’t serve him. There was no effort made to find someone who could serve him and he carried on stacking bottles and glasses. Eventually, the previous female bar staff appeared again and served the customer who was obviously not impressed.

By 4:00pm, the same young man who previously couldn’t serve drinks was now serving customers on his own. So what was the problem previously?

By this time my second business client arrived. She wanted a diet Coke with ice and Lime. I placed that order and also a Black Americano coffee (Costa Coffee) for myself.  I was asked ‘Is that Pepsi‘  ‘No ‘, I replied ‘Diet coke, it’s in the fridge behind you’.  I was then served a diet Coke with a slice of Lemon, so I asked for the Lemon to be replaced with Lime. Is it really that difficult?  My coffee order, remember, was for a Black Americano – I was delivered  a luke warm white coffee.

By this time I had given up!   Listening Skills – Communication Skills – Customer Service – obviously not in the remit!

I drank the coffee – but made the decision never to return to the premises.  Before leaving, I discovered that the original man behind the bar was the Manager. I was astounded! Perhaps if he had spent time managing the premises and staff, rather than doing all the work, he’d have been able to see the big picture.

I have no problem with Managers getting ‘stuck-in’ I’ve done it myself, but they shouldn’t be so involved for elongated periods to the point that they lose sight of the overall business, should they?  This manager, in my opinion, did not know what the rest of the staff were doing because he was so involved in doing all of the work. The culture seemed to me to be one of indifference to customers needs – and who’s keeping the business going?  We all know it is far cheaper to keep the customers you have than to actively seek out new customers – so why would a business not provide excellent service to keep their customers returning?

I have left out individual names of staff – but if Whitbread plc wish to review their customer service provision at Table Table, Arena Square, Sheffield, I shall be more than happy to deliver some training for them – and they are the only circumstances under which I would re-visit the premises.


Service makes the difference – and people provide the service!
  1. Interesting – that having tweeted this post, WhitbreadPLC replied … but I’m still waiting for them to contact me … just how interested are they in customer service?

    Whitbread PLC ‏@WhitbreadPLC 7 Sep
    @crucibletrain We’re very sorry to hear about your recent experience, we will contact you directly for further information. Thanks

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