The other day, I had dinner at the restaurant Djurgårdsbrunn in Stockholm. It started out nicely with a soothing summer evening ambience. I ordered braised tuna on a bed of asparagus and other greens. A $37 dish that sounded delicious.
Half-way into the main course, I realized that a substantial part of the salad bed was dark, stale and soggy. Some of the pieces of spinach I tried tasted so awful that I started to feel sick.
I had a conversation about it with the waitress and the first response I got was whether they could offer me some new salad – not a new tuna dish, but rather some replacement salad. I instead was focused on wanting acknowledgment that I had been served a dish with bad salad. The waitress agreed that it looked unfresh and soggy, and that it wasn’t something one would want to eat – but I got no apologies. I then walked over to the chef and asked him what he thought about the salad – again, he also agreed that the salad didn’t look good. It was a friendly conversation, but there were no apologies or signs of showing true understanding for what this had done to my dinner experience.
Feeling queasy from the bad salad I had just eaten, I turned down the offer of a second serving and instead asked for some french fries. Did I feel compensated? No, not at all. I would have expected to also be offered a complimentary coffee and dessert. Which I wasn’t – but that still wouldn’t have cut it. Let me explain why.
Going to a restaurant is about having a wonderful, multi-sensory experience. You want to go there, lean back and have a wonderful time in terms of nice ambience, attentive service, good food/drinks and lovely company.
I was served a $37 dish that should neither have passed the chef nor the waitress. It’s disappointing to experience such low quality standards and lack of attention to detail.
But instead of focusing on the mistake that was made, I would like to emphasize the importance to first show me as a customer true empathy in terms of what this mistake did to my evening. My dinner experience was negatively disrupted and prior to showing necessary signs of generosity, the restaurant staff needs to recognize that this has made me uncomfortable on various levels – I wasn’t served a fresh dish (which in itself is terrible), I was forced to complain which – at least to a Swede – is generally not a pleasant thing to do and I felt queasy from having eaten bad pieces of salad.
There is a very important learning to any brand on how to deal with a customer experience gone wrong.
First, show empathy to your customer – show that you fully recognize and understand the real and perceived consequences of the negative experience you as a brand have caused. You have to comprehend what it is you are offering and what needs and expectations the customer has in order for you to be able to demonstrate empathy, which represents the fundamental first step to set things straight.
Thereafter, choose how you wish to be generous and compensate for the damage you caused. Never assume that a complimentary dessert or another act of generosity would automatically make the customer feel truly compensated. You have to connect with the person on an emotional level before any tangible compensation can effectively take place.