Don’t Choke When It Matters Most

My mother has a history of ordering the one bad meal on the menu whenever we go to a restaurant. This combined with her propensity for choking—typically on a particularly sharp shell found in her crab soup, gristle in her cheeseburger or a small but debilitating bone in her fish—always makes for a memorable evening out.

We’ve had a lot of experience with this, but one instance stands out due to the way in which the restaurant handled the situation.

During a beach vacation in Ocean City, Md., my extended family was dining at a popular Italian chain restaurant. Mom skipped the mozzarella sticks (which would have killed her) and safely navigated her way through the side salad (any sort of vinaigrette dressing tends to take her breath away), so it seemed like smooth sailing when she began eating her spaghetti.

And then she started choking. Normally, there’s an understanding in my family that we’re allowed to laugh once Mom’s OK, but this time seemed quite serious.

After many scary seconds, my Mom was able to remove the item that she was choking on—which happened to be a long strand of steel wool from a Brillo Pad used to clean dishes. Minor oversight.

You would think that the manager of the restaurant would be incredibly concerned and apologetic that one of his customers nearly died eating a bowl of pasta and comp our bill at the very least.

Instead, he offered Mom a complimentary piece of cheesecake, because clearly she was jonsing for an errant sponge to bookend the meal.

Our customer experience that evening was not great. And because I enjoy rehashing unsavory experiences publicly (à la Taylor Swift), the Brillo Pad Debacle has gotten around.

To avoid such situations and subsequent blog posts, it’s important to consider what kind of customer experience your company is delivering. Whether it’s a restaurant or an apartment firm, the customer is king and should be treated as such.

In the March issue of units, Steve Lefkovits discusses the customer experience meta-trend and its impact on all phases of apartment Internet marketing.

According to Lefkovits, companies such as Southwest who invest their money and attention in customers as opposed to static technology are beating the competition. Technology has to drive customer convenience in the apartment industry, and efficiency has to mean something. Ensure customers receive consistent pricing regardless of the channel and make sure they understand why there are different rents for different periods.

Additionally, the “smart guys” in the industry are focusing on reviews, but they are looking at them offensively rather than defensively, Lefkovits says. It’s about taking positive control of your reputation and delivering customer service that makes your residents and prospective residents eager to share their wonderful experience with your company. When you make a mistake—such as using steel wool for a garnish—take control of it and use it as an opportunity to enhance customer service and brand image.

For information on customer experience meta-trends, check out the article “Customers As Kings” in the March issue of units, which mailed March 8. The e-version is available here.

AIM 2012—Customer First will be held April 25-27 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown. Visit www.apartmentinternetmarketing.com/2012-conference for information and registration.