service mattersService matters, maybe more than high-quality products!

Speaking of service matters, here’s a true story…

The large, shiny green fly lay flat on its back, eyes bulging and lifeless among the other greens on my wife’s salad plate. Its tiny black legs reached skyward, having drowned in ranch dressing!

“Eeeoooo!” I turned to see Susan’s face puckered in disgust.

You might know, my first thought was, “SYSTEMS FAILURE!”

The occasion? Some Kansas friends of ours were in Tennessee for a family visit, and asked to meet for dinner with my wife Susan and me.  Susan quickly recommended a popular Nashville restaurant, that had opened its second location not far from our home.

The owner/chef of the restaurants, bearing his first name, had become well-known for his great food and service.  Susan and I had eaten at the Nashville location on a number of occasions, and enjoyed getting to know the always-genial chef, with his rich Eastern accent.

When our friends, Karen and Tim, arrived at our home we rode together to the restaurant, assuring them of the “wonderful experience” they were about to have. I have to admit, I bragged a bit about knowing the chef, personally, and hoped for the chance to introduce our friends to him. Both Karen and Tim are successful business people, well-traveled and familiar with nice dining, so it looked to be a good choice.

With high expectations, and hunger pangs all around, the four of us arrived at the restaurant within minutes. I wondered that the parking lot was less than half full—but, no matter; it was still early and it was a new establishment!

I Wondered Where the Wonder Went

On entering the restaurant, a hostess, carrying an armload of menus, seated us at one of several empty tables, by a window, then quickly retreated to the foyer.

Finding our table sticky and crumb-coated, I signaled for a waitress who was serving at another table. A sober glance, and a mildly-annoyed finger in the air, told us we would need to wait for assistance. We would just have to keep our hands and elbows off the table, until someone came to wipe up the leavings of prior guests.

In due time, a young man arrived at our table and, after a few hasty swipes with a soppy rag, he also made a hasty retreat. “Ah, well,” I smiled at our guests, “It’ll dry soon!”

In the meantime, our always upbeat friend, Tim (who had likely missed his calling as a comic), supplied some welcome levity. So, hands and elbows still hovering over the table, we waited for our “wonderful experience” to begin.

Service Matters? No Problem, I Can’t Eat Anyway!

During our wait, Karen shared that she had just had extensive oral surgery and there was not much on the menu she could eat. However, she insisted we all order our steaks and enjoy; she would just eat “something soft.” I’m thinking pasta, but she chose a creamed-something soup and water. So much for her fine dining experience, I thought. But it only got worse!

Having finally placed our orders, we found we had plenty of time to talk about…well, actually, our whole lives! We might have been able to take a short vacation, the food was so long in coming! Eventually, three salads were placed before us looking a bit wilted. Apparently, they had served the fresher produce to earlier patrons!?

Eventually, Karen’s soup arrive, and with an added attraction. Using her salad fork, she fished a long, brown HAIR out of her bowl. ““Eeeoooo!” (Susan again). But, Karen graciously pushed the bowl aside, “It’s okay, I’m not very hungry anyway.”

Susan’s more formidable “Eeeooooo” had also caught our attention for another reason. There it was, a small horse fly—shiny, green and DEAD, atop the butter lettuce.

This actually happened, and for all our attempts to make light of it, it was really embarrassing!

When Service Matters a Lot

What if this happened during a business dinner with clients, on whom you hoped to make a really good impression?

I called the waitress and showed her the fly and the hair. To my surprise, she looked at us as if we were just trying to cause trouble, even as we tried to keep it low-key. I asked if the owner, our friend the chef, was available and she informed us he was at the Nashville location.

The hostess (who turned out to be the manager) finally came to our table with a mild apology. Although she did not offer to bring a fresh salad or bowl of soup, she did offer us a 10% discount off our bill. Still, not wanting to make a scene, I accepted her “generous” offer.  Unfortunately, the rest of our meal came under suspicion (intense scrutiny), as we proceeded with caution, lest we find more items of interest.

To be sure, the chef’s second restaurant was NOT ready for prime time, I decided. There had been a complete breakdown of systems for giving customers a consistent experience of fine dining.

According to author Michael Gerber book, “The E-Myth,” business format franchises have reported a success rate of 95%; whereas, independently-owned businesses report a 50% failure rate.

TRUTH IS… 85% of all businesses fail in the first five years. And 75% of those new businesses that DO succeed are FRANCHISES!

Why Do Franchises Succeed?

The simple fact is—franchises have proven systems for operating, which ensures quality and service.  Yes, franchises have their problems; they’re NOT perfect.  However, if you compare a franchise with a small independent company (that has virtually NO written systems for operations), you can bet you will find a lot more “hairs” and “flies” causing chaos and lost customers. These system-less independents often use a system of apology and give discounts, hoping to appease unhappy customers. And it’s all due to their failure to implement and provide proper customer service. Customer retention—due to consistently good service—determines the ultimate success or failure of a business!

Am I saying every business owner needs to become a franchisee? You may be thinking, “Besides, I’ve been in business for 10 years;  I made it past the five year mark and I’m still here!”

What I AM saying is, your business needs to be franchise-ready, unlike the Chef’s store, in the story above.  By the way, that second restaurant of his was later replaced by a “great” Mexican restaurant. However, Susan and I are waiting on reports before risking business lunches there!

Why Franchise-ready Service Matters

As to WHY you need to be franchise-ready, I recommend you read “The E-Myth.”

To know HOW to be franchise-ready, you might also read our book, “System Busters: How to Stop Them In Your Business.

In case you’re wondering—Yes, I did think a 10% discount for a dirty table, an amazingly long wait for our meal, finding a fly and a hair, and then being treated like we were trying to get a free meal, was pretty insulting! But, I paid the bill and left the normal tip.

Needless to say, my wife and I have not been back to visit the Chef’s Nashville location, since then, either. And our friends were delighted to choose the eatery on their next visit!

Nevertheless, that evening did end up on a good note. We all went to a Starbucks, not far from the Chef’s restaurant. We resumed our conversation and drank great cups of coffee—something we could always expect from such a well-systemized franchise!

Did I mention? Great systems work!