Lessons of over-promise, under-deliver

UPDATE: 28/2/09

Just got an email from the general manager of the restaurant (after my message back to them), graciously admitting to what can only be described as a complete failure of our internal system”, which has led to the entire team getting more training on the promotion… Thanking me for taking the trouble to write to him following our “ordeal and in apology for the “catalogue of errors from last week, he’s going to send us a bottle of Champers. Now that’s what I call rescuing a situation!

Here’s a salutary lesson in how not to deal with a customer who was expecting to spend a lot of money in exchange for a good experience, through inattention to a small detail which was introduced in the first place by the provider of that experience…


Saturday was Mrs D’s birthday – not a major one, but a special occasion nevertheless. We decided to celebrate by going to a good restaurant – the kind which features on www.viamichelin.com with more than a single star next to it…

I love ViaMichelin. It’s a great resource which shows (on a map) good quality hotels and restaurants, pubs etc, all over the world – the kind of place which is decent and not necessarily too expensive, all the way up to the best of the best. If ever we’re going on a long trip and will need to stop for lunch or dinner, I’ll take a look in VM to see if there’s anywhere nearby … and it’s never let me down.

As it happens, said restaurant sent me email a couple of weeks ago saying they hope I’d enjoyed my visit (even though I’d only made a reservation), and offered me a couple of glasses of pop as an aperitif and a nice glass of wine each with the main course, should we choose to visit again in the near future.

It’s a bit cheeky, but I figured I’d ask them if the offer applied to my existing booking; their customer services mailed me straight back saying they’d informed the restaurant that we’d be on the “Drinks are on us” promo, and they looked forward to seeing us on Saturday. Splendid. Couldn’t wait.

On arrival,when the maître’d asked if we wanted a drink, I discretely said we were on a ‘drinks on us’ promo … (not exactly wanting to shout into the quite-busy lounge area “AH! WE’RE ON A COUPLE OF FREEBIES ACCORDING TO THIS EMAIL <TADA>”).

After wiping his “My goodness, sir, you appear to have sprouted horns on your head” look from his face, he took our name and beetled off to check the reservation. And that was the last he spoke to us, except when I chased him (twice) for the bill, since we were standing in the door, coats on, with the taxi waiting outside..

This is an example of a small piece of poor customer service which actually cast quite a shadow on an expensive meal and what would otherwise have been a memorable evening for all the right reasons. They had offered me something free of charge which I was surprised and delighted about, but then manifestly failed to deliver, and I didn’t want to make a fuss on the night.

I sent mail to the customer services lady (who had corresponded quickly and efficiently before), expressing my disappointment – as yet (3+ days later)… nothing.

So what’s the lesson here [see? this isn’t just a rant and rave]?

The actions and inactions of a few people executing on something that was essentially unimportant and which was offered and not asked for, partly cancelled out all the work of the people who prepared the ingredients, made the great food, designed & built the venue, the guy who played the piano etc etc.

Makes me hope that I don’t ever fail to do something which in effect ruins the hard work of everyone else…

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