Get the key insights learned from a recent negative Facebook review that you can use to improve guest experience in – and out of – your facility.

Guest service has been on my mind lately, but not for the reasons you might think. Read how restaurant reviews in a local Facebook community inspired important lessons to consider in your facility’s guest experience.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I decided to move to San Antonio, Texas. Never having spent much time in San Antonio, I joined several local Facebook Groups, including:  San Antonio – Ask a Local and San Antonio Restaurants.

Get Local

These two community groups have over 100,000 active participants, and there are dozens of posts each day regarding where to stay, play, and eat. If you haven’t joined local groups in your own community, it might be a good idea – even if only to know when someone posts about your facility.

Guest Experience by Proxy?

In the restaurant group, members often visit and review or ask questions about local eateries. A member recently posted, saying they were an Uber Driver who had ferried a couple leaving a restaurant. During the conversation, she learned that they’d originally had reservations at a high-end restaurant in the trendy Pearl Brewery Neighborhood of San Antonio.

At the first establishment, the couple was seated promptly, then waited in vain for 30 minutes for a server or anyone to acknowledge them, before finally leaving the restaurant to dine somewhere else. The poster ended the post with, “I know restaurants blame a lot on COVID and staffing, but really. There is no excuse for that. I feel a lot of places are using excuses to raise prices and skimp on service.” This post as of this morning has 193 posted reactions and 90 comments. This person hadn’t even been at the restaurant.

The Cost of Missed Opportunities

I probably don’t have to tell you that the post was immediately met with commiseration about the “lack of customer service these days” and how many just “aren’t going to spend money at these places” and “how dare that restaurant think they can get away with charging so much and ignoring their customers…”

It’s no secret that poor or lackluster service leaves lasting effects, but when so many people are willing to pick up the cause of sharing negative content, we really just can’t afford to provide poor customer service. Training is everything. BUT – that’s not where the story really gets interesting.

Mixed Reactions

If you’re like me, reading the story, you were probably disheartened by all the ways this issue could have been so easily resolved. Thankfully, there were a few people who noted the original poster hadn’t been there, therefore hadn’t really earned the right to complain. Others asked why the customers hadn’t said anything in the 30 minutes that they waited. Did they just sit there angrily without saying anything?

I posted what anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry likely already knows. This was almost definitely a situation where a server didn’t know they’d been sat, and that a simple “hey there, does my server know we’re here?” check-in with the host stand would have had managers and staff falling all over themselves to make up for the mishap. And no, we “shouldn’t have to,” and no “it’s not our job to remind people we’re here…” but wouldn’t it have been less hassle in the long run for the diners?

So many of us (myself included) will sit there on our high horses, forgetting that the person on the other side of the table (or the counter or the phone), is a person. A person who didn’t come to work to fail and who probably does want to do their best, despite making mistakes. I think it’s time to put down the pitch forks.

Walking With Empathy

Moments like these provide opportunities for us to reflect on our business processes and training, but perhaps more importantly, they give us opportunities to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and ask, “If I were the server, host, etc. in this situation, and I’ve missed something, what would I want to happen?” And maybe just extend a little grace when possible. It doesn’t mean that we should accept poor service or lower our standards as consumers or business owners, but is it even a little possible that customer service might be dropping because workers are tired of being treated poorly by their customers? Food for thought.

The Business Lesson

It’s not all about the existential, of course. There are some key takeaways here for business owners. Training staff on clear server processes and managers who lead by walking around are the minimum requirements in an efficient operation.

But are we connecting staff to purpose and empowering them to take ownership? What kind of difference might it have made for the restaurant guests who, while being seated the host had said, “We’re so glad you’re here, Matlock’s going to be your server today, but my name’s Olivia so don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions or want to know a little bit more about the Pearl or San Antonio! I’m just right up front!” That little extra feeling of purpose – “that I get to help make someone’s day!” Or that feeling of ownership – “I have what it takes – and the responsibility – to make someone’s day” could have made all the difference.

Maintaining a high-performing staff takes an ongoing, layered approach to performance management. But it starts with connecting every single team member with your purpose. How connected is your staff to yours?

To help you get started with a new approach to purpose, check out this resource.

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