How your customer service must not react to a life-threatening issue

I spent a week in Paris with friends. It was a business trip but I’m so lucky that some my business contacts are also good friends of mine and the entire week was a blast. I’m not going to mention the name of the place where this story happened because it’s not about blaming the place itself but it’s more about what was wrong in their reaction.

This can happen to anybody, in any place and it’s a good point to keep in mind next time you are training your staff about how to deal with your customers.

On saturday night the four of us were hanging out at the super crowded hotel bar. It’s a very fancy design bar in Paris, always full of people and with a great atmosphere. We ordered four drinks and we were about to enjoy the drinks, getting the best out of our time all together.

Suddenly one of my friends looked puzzled and digging with his straw inside his cocktail found out that what it seemed to be a strange chunk of ice was a big piece of a broken glass. It was sharp and pointy, swimming right in the middle of his drink. I had My D600 with me and I took a couple of shots.

We were all shocked, but honestly, I worked in a bar in the past. Something like that should not happen ever, but it can happen.

I went to the barman who prepared the drinks and I asked to speak with his manager. Once I identified the one in charge in the middle of the crowded bar I asked him to talk privately, outside of the mob. And there started the main issue.

He refused to fulfill my request and wanted to talk in the chaos of the bar saying there was no need to move to a quieter place. So I explained what had happened and the first reaction was complete denial, like one of my hobbies was to play morbid pranks to respectable bar managers. So I showed the piece of glass in the drink and I told him that I had four witnesses.

After the first denial came the finger pointing, asking me to identify the barman who made the drink and then asking him if it was true. Of course the poor guy was more shocked that me, not only he just found out he made a serious mistake but he was also put under pressure by his manager in front of his colleagues and of us customers.

Then step three: the bribing. Th manager offered to cancel the order giving back to me the 50 euros we spent for the drinks, in order to get rid of us and solve the issue. Absolutely crazy. You have a potential life threat at your bar, like a broken glass in the ice you are serving to the customers and you are more worried about me complaining rather than solve the potential threat.

I told the guy I wanted to speak to someone in charge, like the hotel manager, because the story was getting ridiculous. He was very reluctant and I had to mention that I wanted to call the police to finally get listened. We then moved to the front desk and we called the hotel manager. I explained the situation to her getting her word that they would do all they could to solve it. Only at that point there was someone able to understand the issue and behave like a real manager and not like a spoiled kid.

What to learn from this story:

      Listen, identify, solve, talk
      Compensation vs bribe
      Private vs public

Listen, identify, solve, talk

Do you really think I like to spend my saturday evening complaining at your bar? Do you really think that I like to come back and discuss with you? No way. If I take my time to ask you to get to a quieter spot, listen to me and understand that there must be a serious reason. Then once you identified the reason, solve the problem. And as said already I’m not your problem, the broken glass contamination is your problem. Move your ass and clean the bar. Then talk to the staff. Who cares who made the drink if you are putting the safety of your customer at risk?

Safety First!
In a case like this the safety of your customers comes first. As soon as you have a security threat like a piece of broken glass in your servings dump all the potentially contaminated containers and clean up the bar. And do it fast. Nobody must get hurt. It’s so basic and it did not happen because the manager was occupied in denying, finger pointing, trying to get rid of me. I was not his problem, his problem was glass in the servings!

Compensation vs Bribe

So you are risking to send someone the hospital tonight and you care about making me happy giving me back fifty euro? Seriously?
If you want to compensate me just make sure there is a good reason and this can happen only at the end of the process. Not at the very beginning just to get rid of me.

Private vs Public

If someone asks you to talk in private just do it. Nobody would leave an expensive design bar crowd on saturday evening to talk in private with you skinny manager unless it’s totally serious. Then never start an argument in front of your crew and your customer. Solve the issue then find the best way not to let it happen ever again. Then if you want to compensate me, fine, but not as a way to shut my mouth up. What would have happened if other customers would have understand the situation and panic would have spread to the crowd? Issues must be managed properly and people need to be trained in order to be fair with clients, with the crew and with the gravity of the situation. Not just to mark people as troublemakers and getting rid of them.

Current status

The morning after we had a talk with the Front Office Manager of the hotel that listened to us and promised that this issue will get to the management and to the property. We received a symbolic compensation, like a few bucks off of our bills and the promise that they will get a lesson out of this situation. I really hope they will follow up, understanding the big risk that was at stake. I also hope they will learn how to train their staff a little bit better and get a proper attitude towards the clients.

You can call a good service only looking at how they behave during a real issue, not when everybody is fine and the sky is blue.

2 thoughts on “How your customer service must not react to a life-threatening issue

  1. Non so, Luca… Tutto molto interessante, tu avevi sicuramente ragione, ed il rischio è stato gravissimo, ma, con ogni probabilità, almeno due persone avranno perso il posto di lavoro per questa faccenda…. Tu dirai che se la sono cercata, ma di questi tempi, è sempre una tragedia e comunque, se il tuo intento primario era quello di impartirgli la lezione, forse la avrebbero imparata anche senza arrivare a questi estremi… Ma forse sto dicendo ingenue banalità…

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  2. Onestamente non credo che abbiano perso il posto di lavoro. E data la serietà della faccenda ho omesso nomi e dettagli. Ma le persone devono prendersi la responsabilità delle proprie azioni soprattutto quando mettono in pericolo gli altri.

    Come ho detto, una cosa del genere non deve succedere, ma può succedere. Ma la reazione non può e non deve essere neanche lontanamente vicina a quella che è accaduta. Prima si svuotano tutti i contenitori del ghiaccio, poi si rifanno tutti i bicchieri sul banco, poi si sta ancora più attenti. Mi sembra piuttosto basilare per persone che servono cibo o bevande.

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