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Don’t Blame Me. I Just Work Here.

I can’t make this “stuff” up. It really happened! The other night I was at a very nice – and very expensive – steakhouse restaurant. This place was top rated for their steaks and seafood. We all ordered a salad. As the server was setting down the salads, we noticed that one of the salads had a tiny portion of salad compared to the others. It was less than half the amount. The salad didn’t even cover the entire plate. So, my friend spoke up and mentioned it to the server, who replied, “I don’t make them. I just serve them.” And, then he walked away.

We were stunned by his response. I broke the silence by stating, “Well, it looks like I have material for my next article.”

I was hoping that he was joking when he gave his excuse, but unfortunately, he wasn’t. So, let’s talk about what happened.

  1. We all have two jobs: Our server didn’t recognize his most important responsibility, which was to take care of his customer. He just viewed himself as the guy who delivers the food. Everyone must recognize that they have two jobs; to do the job that they are hired to do and to take care of the customer.
  2. Be an ambassador for your brand: Our server didn’t realize one of his very important responsibilities, that he was an ambassador for his restaurant. More than just doing his job as a server and taking care of his customer or guest, he is also part of something bigger. His actions reflect on all the other employees. After the dinner, our friends made comments like, “They really have bad service.” The reality is that the restaurant usually has good service. Most of the other employees, if not all of them, are very good at what they do. Yet, one employee ruined the reputation of everyone.
  3. Don’t blame others: Our server played the blame game. “I don’t make them. I just serve them.” He was blaming the chef and his staff for the mistake. It may not have been his fault, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t accept the responsibility of managing the experience. A simple apology is a good start. And, making it right, in this case, would have been easy. Just bring the guest a new salad.

Nobody and no company is perfect. There will always be mistakes and problems. Some are small, and some are large. It’s how they are handled that is the true test of excellence. A problem is an opportunity to show how good you are. A complaint is a gift, allowing you to respond in a way that proves to the customer that they made the right decision to do business with you.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.comFor information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

    • Gustavo Arias says:

      Shep you know what, that server failed in the basic rule of common sense. if you know your job you should have notice the problem with the salad portion and ask the kitchen staff to correct it.

      We have to understand the entire business, not in detail but enough to understand the basic service promise.

  1. This is a great example of a challenge all employers face–getting employees to be committed to service. People are complicated and it’s definitely not easy! Great service may seem obvious to many of your readers, but I wonder if that employee actually likes his job. Hopefully, you’ll get better service the next time you go.

    • Hi Jeff – Part of it is training. At a high-end restaurant like this, they wouldn’t let someone who didn’t handle the basics take care of a large party on a Saturday night. Maybe he doesn’t like his job. Here’s a funny response. There was a special pasta with a sauce that had wild boar. Sounded interesting, and I asked if he had tried it and he said, “It’s pasta” and moved on. I just think he not a fit for this job.

      • “It’s pasta.” Oh wow.

        A friend of mine had a similar experience at a restaurant recently. Here was the mysterious part–he witnessed the same server provide fantastic service to the next table. For some reason, the server decided he didn’t like my friend (who is probably the nicest guy you could hope to meet!) but did like the other table.

        I guess these mysteries keep us busy!

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