Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The forgotten customer

It's chilly in Albany, fifties, but I sat on the patio of the restaurant in the Hilton Garden Inn at Albany Medical Center. Just choosing the hotel is something a lot of people don't understand. It's twice the distance to to the office as the Hampton Inn; the Hilton downtown is even closer. The Garden Inn, though, is close to my favorite restaurants, has a Starbucks in the lobby, a Panera next door, and the walk to work is through a beautiful park.
The restaurant is called Recovery Room. It's a decent slightly-upscale sports bar. They serve Crossroads' beer; they make some excellent beer out of Athens, New York, just south of Albany. They make a good burger. The wings are good. I don't expect much in a place beyond that.

Except service.

I waited ten minutes on the patio before I decided I had been forgotten. Nobody else was out there. The tables were out, but the lights weren't turned on. When I asked to sit there, I made sure it was okay with the hostess, and she said of course. Why the patio, when it was so chilly? It faces west towards what promised to be one hell of a sunset. We have to take time to see these things in life. Sunsets. Sunrises. Stars. Moon. The way an autumn breeze smells.

When I told the hostess I had been forgotten, she apologized and said someone would be right out. True to her word, three minutes later a server took my order. Everything else was prompt and efficient. The beer was good. My wings perfectly tender. And the sunset was so spectacular that people on the street stopped to take pictures of it.

Forgetting a customer is a big no-no. I am in Operations. You just don't do it. Selfridge said that the customer is always right; while I don't exactly agree with the interpretation of this, I do believe that the customer is always important. Everyone, including the complainers as well as those who level abject praise, provide value to the operation. I learn from them all little things that help move the business forward. When the customer is seen as forgettable, then that represents a problem. You must see each customer as a piece of the puzzle that makes up the business. Far too often we view our customers as burdens, even as obstacles. That cannot be the case if you want success.

I finished my meager meal in darkness. They never turned the lights on, which was okay, even though I think they probably should have made the assumption that I didn't want to eat in the dark. With the sun firmly set, all traces of the orange glow gone, I paid and went back to my room where I fell asleep watching football.