There’s nothing worse than getting good customer service…when they spoil it afterwards

I was in The Salisbury pub recently in Covent Garden, London – a lovely pub run by Taylor Walker. I was finishing up a work meeting with a colleague and we decided to have some food.

It was pretty good, good enough to recommend it in its own right and good portions at a reasonable price – surely it couldn’t get any better… well it did.

We were lucky, no, lucky isn’t the right word, because I think good service is in the culture of Taylor Walker pubs. None the less, we were served by possibly the most enthusiastic bar lady I can remember in a long time. She was helpful, always had her eye on us, swooping in at just the right time offer to bring more drinks without doing that annoying hovering thing that lots of them do, or asking us if everything is OK just when you have a mouth full of food. She had a laugh with us, finding the perfect balance of informality with professionalism and my colleague and I spent a considerable amount of our time in there taking about how good the service was.

That was when we realised that we weren’t lucky at all, as every member of staff in there seemed to be doing a similar thing, all with attentive smiles on their faces. I was wondering how Taylor Ward pubs had built such a great culture. It must be a good employer, as contented cows give better milk right, so happy employees make happy customers is just as good a logic.

It was when we went to pay our bill, we tipped well and thanked the lady who served us (she was of Eastern European origin – I’m not sure it matters, but its worth pointing out that good employees are good employees wherever they come from), which is when it all started to unwind horribly.

She asked us if we’d mind filling out a review online for her and as they has free Wi-Fi and it would take one minute; we thought ‘why not?’.

While in there, I guess I saw 1 person with a laptop, but at least 50 had mobile phones – why then when I went through to the website to complete the survey I wasn’t directed to a mobile version, but a desktop version which was ever so ever so fiddly. (I had thought that maybe they didn’t have one, but then thought ‘nah, don’t be ridiculous – why on earth would they do that?, they seem to know what they are doing’.

I was still smiling with great service afterglow, so I persevered – for about 5 minutes, getting to question 20 when they survey went beyond my food and experience and started to ask what I consider really quite intrusive and rude questions about where I was educated, to what level and how much I earned etc.

I scanned ahead and saw another barrage of personal and frankly irrelevant questions and that’s when I abandoned, promising to write a blog instead about a very simple principle.

If you’re going to ask for feedback, don’t try and data mine me – it’s intrusive and I know in my heart that you wont do anything meaningful with the data to make my life better – you wouldn’t ask as stranger in the street those questions, so where does the audacity come from to ask me…

It’s a shame really, because they deserve to do well and I’ll go there again if I get the opportunity, but they also deserve a decent marketing director who understands that upsetting potentially loyal advocates is not a good way to spend a marketing budget!

The staffs heroic efforts in making amazing customer service look easy are being thwarted by a number cruncher who needs to spend their budget on getting themselves on a personal development course on empathy and emotional intelligence – try working in one of your pubs, you’ll learn a lot there, and I’m not sure knowing how much I earn is going to make your service any better than it already is.

Doing it right – have a mobile website, ask the minimal amount of questions that you can (net promoter score is just one and works really well for the customer and the management team) and in the case of Taylor Ward, the marketing director should just visit the Salisbury and replicate what they do on there across the estate and then you’ll not even have to ask customers how to do it right, because they have got it down…

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