For Sophie, Love USC!

>> Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sophie is my French Bulldog. USC is the Union Square Cafe, one of the most consistently best reviewed restaurants in New York City. And this is a tale of two restaurants and of superior customer service.

If your brand or business has any quotient of customer service, then take this as inspiration. In this economy, in my opinion, customer service should be top priority for almost any brand or business. Keep your customers happy. Give new customers a great experience so that they want to come back.

So here's my tale of customer service, ala two different restaurant experiences.

This past Saturday night, we decided to celebrate the holiday weekend and go to one of the trendy restaurants in the trendy Meatpacking District here in New York. Bagatelle.

Long story short, we decided to go to Bagatelle that same day and we didn't have a reservation. I called on three separate occasions through the day, and each time was told that although there was no reservations available, I should stop by anyway when I'm in the neighborhood.

At 9:15 at night, we were already in the neighborhood but I couldn't remember the exact address so I called again and spoke to the same woman I had spoken to earlier. She told me that she wasn't sure how busy the restaurant was (she was upstairs in an office) but that I should stop by and worst case have a drink at the bar while we wait. Good enough for me.

Well, when we got to the door, the bouncer (very old school Studio 54 type bouncer) would not let us in because they were booked. I told him that I had just spoken to someone and that she had told us to stop by. He "demanded" that I tell him her name. He was rude beyond belief.

I stood there stunned, and quite honestly I have not been treated so rudely in years. This is just a restaurant. It's just food. No need to be so incredibly rude. He finally said that we could go to the bar for ONE drink and then we would have to leave.

Nice. Our little holiday "stay-cation" night out was now marred by an obnoxious bouncer. For no reason. I will never go back and I will tell all my friends not to bother.

In an effort to rebound the night (it is a holiday weekend after all), I called one of my old standby restaurants, Union Square Cafe. Not as trendy. Not in as trendy of a neighborhood. But always good.

The customer service blew us away. The woman on the phone told us that they were pretty busy but that we should stop by and they would work us in. When we got there, we walked in like it was our long lost home and we quickly told her our story. What did she do? She HUGGED us.

We waited a couple minutes and they gave us a great table. Timing was oddly perfect. What did the waitress do when you told her our story? She HUGGED us.

We went on to order fabulous food -- the best in the city. On several occasions through the evening the waitress stopped by to check in with us and to chat. Perfectly attentive yet also let us enjoy each other's company. We somehow got to talking about New Orleans and all the amazing restaurants there -- if I remember correctly she used to live there. We told her that we were planning a little get away there sometime soon.

We didn't finish all our food, so we had her pack up what was left of the steak so that we could give it to our little French Bulldog, Sophie. We paid the bill, grabbed the doggie bag, and started to walk home happy and content -- loving the best of NY.

We were about ten steps away from the door when the waitress came bounding out to give us a hand written note on a Union Square Cafe card with a listing of the best restaurants in New Orleans, organized by type. Can you believe it? Customer service at its finest. We hugged goodbye with huge smiles on our faces, amazed by the level of genuine caring.

What a sharp contrast to the experience just hours before at Bagatelle.

The next day, still commenting on the turn around of the night, we opened up the doggie bag to feed Sophie dinner. Written on the top of the box was "For Sophie. Love, USC!".

They had me at hello. They have me for life.

If customer service is a part of your brand experience, then please learn from my tale of two restaurants and of superior customer service. Especially in this economy, but truthfully in any economy.

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Post a Comment