If you’re at all connected with pop culture, or are on some sort of social network, you’ve probably seen the recent meltdown by the owners of Amy’s Baking Company on the nationally broadcast reality show, Kitchen Nightmares. For those of you that haven’t, check it out here. If you don’t have time to watch the entire video, the first 10-15 minutes are quite eye opening.
I don’t watch this show on a regular basis, but I was captivated by this particular episode. Having been involved in customer service—with a passion toward customer success throughout my career—I was spellbound by the complete lack of customer focus that the owners of this business exhibited. They essentially did everything you shouldn’t do when it comes to customer service. Within the first two minutes of the opening credits, we’re shown the company’s namesake: “The customer is not always right.” Yikes.
While this may be true in reality, it seemed to be the flawed basis on which they run their business. Throughout the show, the owners demonstrated an outright animosity toward their customers, employees, and a complete inability to take even the most benign criticism. To make matters worse, all this happened before Chef Ramsey even walked into the restaurant. In the end, Chef Ramsey, who has tried to help more than 100 restaurant owners on this show, felt there was no chance of remedying the mistakes showcased by the owners of this establishment.
There are three obvious and predominant lessons we can learn from the owners of Amy’s Baking Company that embody the foundation for a broader customer success strategy. Whether you are operating a restaurant or selling a product or service in the B2B marketplace, these are applicable to any industry geared toward customer success:
1. The Customer Is Always Right – Right off the bat, the owner of this business stated that the customer is “not” always right. While not-that-true in reality, the slogan itself, which “exhorts service staff to give a high priority to customer satisfaction,” is not meant to be a hard and fast rule. The point behind the saying is that customer complaints should be treated seriously. Wise words from famous hotelier Cesar Ritz: “If a diner complains about a dish or the wine, immediately remove it and replace it, no questions asked.” Bottom line is that you need to be listening to your customers, and be receptive to feedback, whether negative or positive. Welcome criticism. Accept it. Learn from it. For every customer that complains, 26 other customers remain silent. Customers and their feedback are part of the solution and should not be viewed as a problem.
2. Don’t Ignore Issues – Denial is not an effective strategy for addressing issues with your product, service or staff. You are lying to yourself, your customers, and your staff—not to mention your investors or shareholders—when you don’t recognize a broken product, poor service, ineffective process or poorly performing people. It’s readily apparent that the owners of this particular business took absolutely no responsibility or ownership for any of the issues that arose throughout the episode.
3. Your People Are Your Greatest Asset – The owners of this business treated their people terribly. They withheld tips left for service staff by customers, all of who were unaware the owners kept the money (Incidentally, I’ve done some research on this topic, and the specific laws behind this seem a bit fuzzy. I’ve seen everything from this being flat out illegal to being dependent upon what the staff is paid. I would appreciate any feedback or insight on this topic). In one scene near the end, Amy released a screaming tirade at an employee in front of customers. The end result? Firing the employee on the spot, all for simply asking a question. It’s not surprising that this business cycled through more than 100 staff members over an 18-month period.
Your people are your greatest asset, and you should treat them as such. It’s not only important to find good people (that’s a given), but also to realize that your employees ARE your business, and as such, you should treat them with respect. Treating your people with respect, praising them for good work and providing “constructive” criticism with the ultimate objective of making them better at what they do will pay off in spades, and will be readily apparent with the customers that they serve. Passionate customer service is not taught. Your people need to feel good about what they are doing, and they won’t if you don’t treat them as your greatest asset.