Is Customer Service dead?

Is it just me or have you also been experiencing this problem lately?

I’ve recently had a number of really unbelievably bad customer service incidents. One was with a wireless carrier — should I be surprised?? — and another, a real doozy that I’ll detail in the near future on this blog, with an online retailer. A third one happened at a restaurant during a recent trip.

The restaurant incident was small next to the other two but strange in it’s own way. I went for an early dinner at a Pakistani restaurant in the Bay Area. There were only a few customers in the restaurant at the time, and only two of us who had placed orders for food. The others were already eating.

The waiter brought out some food and gave it to the other customer. I looked over and thought, wow, what a coincidence. It looked like he had ordered virtually the same dishes I had. The customer started eating his meal and I didn’t pay much attention to him beyond that.

About 10 minutes later, the waiter brought out my order; or at least what he thought was my order. As he placed the food on the table, I looked at it and said, this doesn’t look like what I ordered.  The waiter started speaking out the names of the dishes, and the other customer — seated a couple of tables away — perked up, and said to the waiter, “I think that’s what I ordered.”

The waiter looked at him, somewhat puzzled and asked “Are you sure?”

“Yes, pretty sure”, the customer replied.

The waiter asked him, “Do you want this food as well?”

Much to my surprise, the customer said “Yes” and the waiter took the food over to his table.

The waiter returned, gave me a very brief apology — “Sorry about that sir.” — and went back to the kitchen.

I eventually got my meal. It was a small incident, but I still can’t understand the following:

  1. How, at a very slow time, with only two customers ordering food, had the waiter completely forgotten who ordered what?
  2. Why, after making the mistake, they thought that “Sorry about that sir” was all that was needed?
  3. How the other customer failed to realize he’d received entirely the wrong meal and didn’t alert the waiter?
  4. How that customer expected to eat two full meals of food?

Customer service may be dead, but in this one case, at least one appetite was very healthy.

Question: Should I have expected more than a simple apology? Or was my expectation too high?



4 responses to “Is Customer Service dead?

  1. BTW, just noticed the 3 “Possibly related posts” just above the comments. 🙂

    These are automatically generated by WordPress, but it’s pretty clear that I’m not the only one writing about this.

  2. I would love to assume in this case that it was an ‘act of mere coincidence’ 🙂

  3. At that point, after the waiter apologized, you should have asked to speak to the manager. The manager would have comped your meal. Maybe the manager would then do something in regards to some process improvement, but you’d never know, because you won’t be going back to that restaurant.

    I had a waiter turn my table, because I was eating alone. Sadly, this was a restaurant where I typically had a great time and leisurely meal. I ordered too much food to compensate for eating alone, as in higher ticket, bigger tip, but this guy couldn’t see that far ahead. Anyway, asked to speak to the manager, and there is always two managers on duty in any restaurant: front-end and kitchen if not a third. Got comped.

  4. You should have complained. Lousy service and goof ups in restaurants particularly infuriate me. Unfortunately, seems to be the norm these days. Quite a shame, considering it is a service industry. But anyway, blow some steam off the next time- you can get compensated, if nothing else, you’ll feel a little better.