Oliver and I visited the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company this morning to have breakfast in their Café. While the food was excellent — we both had wonderful blueberry pancakes — the service was subpar. This struck me as odd because I know Bruce MacNaughton, the owner, places a premium on offering good service.
Because I know Bruce a little, I sent him an email relating the details of our bad service. I sent the email off at 2:18 p.m. At 2:20 p.m. — 2 minutes later — I received the following in reply:
I cannot explain the disrespect shown to your or your son, it does not sound like anyone we have working for us, but I do believe you and I will check into who the server was and ask for a non-repeat performance.
I want to apologize for such behaviour and from all of us here at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Co. we sincerely hope that you can forgive us for such an experience. We sincerely appreciate hearing from you and thank you for helping to make us a better place in which people can enjoy their food and atmosphere.
Both the speed of Bruce’s reply and what he wrote demonstrate an amazing committment to customer service, and go a long way to eliminating the sting of the bad service itself.
Many service-based businesses go off the rails when dealing with bad service: they seem to think that once bad service has happened the story is over. They think the way to react to it is either by trying to pretend it never happened, trying to explain it away, or trying to placate their customers with cheap form-letter sympathy.
My brother Johnny, who worked in food service for 15 years, once told me that customers who care enough to write you about bad service are giving you a gift by pointing out things that you can’t see yourself. If you react to that gift quickly (and here I think Bruce has set some sort of world record) and effectively, you can not only keep them as customers, but also turn a bad situation that can fester through bad word-of-mouth into an exceptional “oh wow!” situation that will work for you.
And that’s exactly what Bruce has done: he turned what could have been a note here about “crappy service at the Preserve Company” into a note about exceptional customer service.