Monday, 5 August 2013

Service is king

So at the weekend I went out for a day with my wife. It is a rare treat for us to have some time on our own and without the children, and although we love them to pieces, it is good to spend some time to ourselves. The day was a success, but I had found very good business lessons whether you are an author or a business owner should be part of your mindset.

Bowling Alley

So the first event was a couple of games of bowling. Although there were none of those horrible plastic chairs and each lane had its own table, the setting needed some work. The music was very loud; so loud that I could barely hear my wife speak into my ear. Even so, there was a worse issue to contend with: poor service. To begin with the staff insisted to on placing our names on the system, but then failed to spell ‘David’ right three times. How you can do that is beyond me.

Secondly we were asked whether or not we would like food at the lane. Having missed lunch because of various reasons, and feeling a little peckish, we ordered a sharing platter and a couple of drinks. What happened next is up for some debate but the bottom line was clear: our food and drinks didn’t arrive.

After our first game we became concerned. So we inquired as to what happened. After some rushed fumbling by the staff it transpired that the kitchen never received our order. However I had seen the staff member who took the order immediately run into the area. It took another 20 minutes before our food arrived, at about round seven of our second game. We ate some and played some, but inevitably we still had some food at the end of the game. So we sat there on the lane to finish it off as looking around 6 out of the 10 lanes were not in use.

Within five minutes the staff had come by, picked up the two bowling balls we had been using and returned them to the stands. Then two minutes later a group arrived to use our lane. This was a little annoying, more than half the lanes were empty and yet it was ours that they had assigned to them. A little disgruntled we picked up everything, including our bags, shoes, plates and drinks to relocate. After we finished we went to pay and left.


The end of the day was capped off with a meal. This restaurant has great ratings online and the food sounded lovely. It was fairly pricey in some parts of the menu, but it was a treat. It was lovely food. The starters cost just £2 ($3) each but the mains were about £20 ($30). But quality was not dropped on either.

When it came to paying my wife and I were having a discussion about how much to give as a tip when the manager came over to take our payment. I was still talking of a story in America so carried on. When I finished the manager turned round and said – “We stopped years ago insisting on tips – it just isn’t worth it.” I smiled a little and replied, “I think the key for a business is to make that one visit become another and then another,” the manager smiled and agreed enthusiastically.

In the end, we did pay a 10% service fee, which was reasonable. The food, service, attentiveness to detail was beyond doubt some of the finest I have had. But from these two experiences there is an important lesson: customer experience.

In the first instance such a negative opinion of the establishment was formed. And worse still they facilitated that image to be impressed upon another customer by moving us before we had finished. I know from a fact, because they spoke to us later, that they didn’t order food because of our experience and they felt guilty about having to move us. In an environment where there are two competing bowling alleys within three hundred meters and another one closer to our house, it makes me ponder whether to return there or not.

However the restaurant has another example. The service was excellent and the food was without a doubt some of the best food out I’ve ever had. The pricing was interesting too, despite only being £2 my order of sausages with a sweet chilli dip was massive. There must have been two big sausages and a good sized portion of dips, yet it was relatively inexpensive. The Tiger prawns and garlic mushrooms I had on the other hand was a small amount for the price – but the taste was immensely good – so very much worth it. The fact that this restaurant sees the value of return custom - instead of trying to drain as much money out of you in one go, is a good philosophy.

The mindsets are perfectly transferable into being an author. If you give a poor quality service then people won’t come back no matter how good your product is. Readers want to have a personal connection to their books. If you shove them out of the way once they’ve bought the book, then they are unlikely to form a positive image about you and your brand and will not return for another book. Yet if you are polite and take the time with the small details, customers will return and continue to buy your works no matter the cost (within reason).

In September I will be running at least three competitions, including chances to:

  • Win a copy of "Ghost Haunts", my paranormal short story collection
  • Win a copy of "Entrapment" - my new release and first in the PIT series
  • A chance to have a character named after you in the second book of the PIT series
To make sure that you have a chance, like my Facebook page or follow me on twitter.

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