Eventually it was bound to happen. I experienced an evening at my favorite restaurant Barcelona, in Brookline, MA, which wasn’t perfect. I’ve been to this place a number of times and have always walked away completely impressed with the food and quite satisfied with the service. However, this was not the case on my last visit.
I took my husband to Barcelona so he could experience what I had been talking about for months at a time. He too anticipated perfection, but instead we waited almost 90 minutes for an outside table when in fact the hostess indicated that it wouldn’t be long before a table on the patio would be free. It’s hard to really complain about this when you are waiting at a lovely bar with a bartender who was quite attentive. But in all honesty, it felt like we were forgotten. Eventually we were seated. Just in time for the rain to begin.
At our request, we were escorted inside to another table where we waited for what felt like an eternity before being acknowledged. Eventually we ordered and the meal was on par with other great meals I’ve had at this restaurant. Now here’s where things get interesting. At the end of the meal, you are handed a quick survey and in return for completing this survey, you are handed a token for a free tapa the next time you dine. Given my love for this restaurant, I felt obliged to complete the survey honestly. I then handed the piece of paper to a waiter who was passing by, and expected nothing more than a token.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the waiter handing the form to what appeared to be the general manager. Rather than waiting until the end of the evening to review the comments, he quickly glanced at my feedback and made his way to our table. He then asked how are evening was. My very nice husband told him it was delightful, even though this wasn’t quite what he told me while we were waiting patiently for a waiter to come by and take our order. I on the other hand, felt the need to give him honest feedback. Here’s what I said, “The service felt a bit off tonight. I’ve been here a number of times and it’s always been great.” I then added that it wasn’t bad enough for me to vow to never return. It just wasn’t what I expected. The general manager thanked me for my feedback and upon leaving, left not one, but two tokens for my next visit.
In a service business, it’s impossible to achieve perfection 100 percent of the time. That’s why you need to hire the right people for your establishment. This means hiring staff that are invested in creating a great customer experience, especially when things go wrong. You need to give your people the authority to make decisions that in the end, will drive more business towards you.
I will continue to tell my friends how much I love this restaurant and at the same time, I will use this story when I speak to large groups of business owners and service professionals to demonstrate that perfection is overrated. Imperfect opportunities like the one I just described are the ones that will drive people back to your business because they want to see you succeed. You now have an opportunity to make course corrections to improve service levels in your business. Here’s to imperfection!