Bad Customer Service – A Window of Bad Experience

Oceanwild Cafe – A Cafe where “Bad Customer Service” is SERVED.

I like the quote that world renowned business entrepreneur Richard Branson once said “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” 

With that quote constantly in my mind and a frequent diner to most restaurants here in Cairns, I often observe employees service to customers and I constantly monitor and compare when I am dining in an eatery or in any customer service industry. These expectations and observations of service to customers are not part of me that I value but they are my beliefs. The beliefs we have are mainly influenced by the environment that we are surrounded with.
My expectation and observations of employees service to customers have influenced me through various sources includes: (1) My long connection with the Customer Service Industry, (2) My regular dining experiences in various restaurants, (3) My studies on Customer Service both at college and tertiary level and (4) My research project and production of “Customer Service in Small business” booklet. With this experiences in mind, entrepreneurs should be aware that “they don’t build a business, they build people and then people build their business – Customer service is about building relationship with people (customers)” and is vital in any business.
It was one of those bad customer service I just recently experience which was deliberately slapped on my face at Oceanwild Cafe which is located at Smithfield in front of Australian Armour & Artillery museum just before famous skyrail terminal. In today’s modern society, running a small business, we need to be aware that how we treat our customers is profoundly important today than in the past 20 plus years ago. Today, if the customers are treated in an unsatisfactory manner, they can come back in an aggressive way through social media (blog, facebook, twitter, tripadvisor) to name a few and most powerful of all is the “word-of-mouth”.
Without a doubt, many years of working in the customer service industry with travel agents, cruise boats, airlines, pharmaceuticals, coach travels and my travels on cruise-ships and frequently travel both locally and abroad have certainly provided me with great insight on how to deal with customers and how I expected of them whether from fine dining restaurants to simply outdoor cafes or food stalls are of vital importance. This is how my bad customer service at Oceanwild Cafe unfolds which I need to share in my blog where anyone don’t have to go through this bad customer service I experienced plus without ignoring the word-of-mouth which I have already lit the flame and is burning fiercely through my network of friends, family, work colleagues and others.

As I got dropped off by a taxi at the skyrail terminal, I walk back to the Oceanwild cafe to have my lunch there before I could jump on the skyrail to work. The cafe had hardly any customer there so I went straight to the counter and placed my ordered – battered fish and a juice. There was only one couple seated on the table far end of the marquee, just had their lunch delivered as I was making myself comfortable on one of the table closest to the front entrance to capture the cool breeze which was a little helpful. As I was reading the local CairnsPost paper, in about 3-4 minutes later, two other couples travelling together just arrived, again, there was no queue so they went straight to the counter and place their order. They then made their way to the table right next to me and I guessed they wanted to catch the cool breeze as well.

It is a natural instinct that we humans tend to observe what is around us and also observe people that have come after us. But for me, personally, I have this passion of observing human behaviour in every places I go, especially in the service industry where I tend to observe employees behaviour on customers from the first point of contact to the moment I leave the place. These passion of mine on observing people begun when I did a particular subject on Human Behaviours at tertiary college in Cairns and with the addition of doing psychology subjects have dramatically increased my understanding on human behaviours to a certain level.  

As I continued to read the local Cairnspost, I thought to myself, there is hardly any customers here that have placed their order before me so my food should be out in a minute – BUT I WAS TOTALLY WRONG.  Within few minutes of waiting, one of the “wait staff” brought out the two couples coffee who have placed their order after me. One of man was not happy with his drink so he brought it back to the counter straight away and told them it wasn’t right. As he made his way back to the table looking unsatisfied, I thought to myself, this is not looking good. Since they were sitting very close to me I could over-heard their whole conversation without them realising that.  

Not long after their drinks were served, the staff came out again serving their lunch, completely ignoring me and not even acknowledging me or about my order. I could not believe what was happening in front of my very own eyes. I decided to wait for few minutes by then my “patience of waiting” was starting to be abused and my lunch period was ticking away. So I had to make an executive decision and started to pack my bag, folder and 2-way radio and made my way to the counter to get my money refunded. Being very observant, the two couples next to me, just looked at each other and probably approved what I was about to do – considering their bad experience of returning their coffee at the first place. As I approached the counter, she just finished packing the food in a takeaway container and I told them, I can’t take that food with me as I am travelling on skyrail which they don’t allow people eating inside cable-cars. I prefer to eat my lunch here more comfortably in a relax manner rather than rushing. To make it worse, they tried to refund me the wrong change – an amount less to what I paid for. Eventually, I was given the right change and the lady at the counter simply said, “Sorry and I don’t know what happened there?”.
To me, the connection between the customer and the business was already damaged. I then made my way to skyrail where I had a quick lunch there before I jumped on the skyrail to work without having that nice relaxing atmosphere which every employees need during their lunch breaks.
I was inside the cable-car, enjoying the views of Smithfield and Cairns city and Northern beaches from the distance as it started to ascend. It was a perfect way to travel to work considering the bad service I just experienced at Oceanwild Cafe.

I started to reflect on the bad customer service I had at Oceanwild Cafe. I thought to myself, this is a lose-lose situation. I lost fish and chips and a drink and the Oceanwild Cafe lost money.
I am a person that always try to analyse every statement a person throws at me and break it down to simpler level where I can absorb and understand it. The statement “Sorry and I don’t know what happened there?” was the exact words the lady said to me as they refunded my money. Here I am, totally a dissatisfied customer and how they manage their attitude towards me, a dissatisfied customer was completely unsatisfactory, terrible and very poor or simply they had no understanding of an unhappy customer. These were some of the fundamental ways of “making a customer tick” and there was no sense of making a dissatisfied customer feel valued. Like in any other business field, building and managing customer relations was in total damage.    

I also tried to understand why she didn’t know what happened there? My observation of the whole processed and why I call it a “Bad customer service is served” at Oceanwild Cafe is outlined below:

Before: #When I placed my order#
(1) There were two employees working there, which means nothing should have gone wrong
(2) I was the first customer to place my order and there was no other customer after me, which means that there should be no confusion in their ordering system
(3) There was hardly anyone there when I placed my order, which means there was no long queue to wait at all
(4) They were not busy at all, which means I was the only customer to place my order at that time
(5) There was no-one at all that placed their order ahead of me, which means service will be quicker and I will have my food in no-time
During: #While waiting for my order#
(1) Two couples travelling together just arrived placed their order about 3-4 minutes after me, which means my order should have been processed already
(2) One of the staff bring out the two couples coffee, which means that my food should be served to me in any minute and thought coffee was quicker
(3) One of the man that ordered his coffee wasn’t right so he walked over to the counter and returned it, which means that something is starting get wrong here
(4) Two couples talk among themselves and not long after, they brought out his coffee
(5) In few minutes later, they brought out the couples food, which they have placed their order after me
(6) The staff didn’t even acknowledge me or even recognised that I have placed my order before those two couples, they should have known and asked themselves why I was sitting there.
(7) The two couples enjoying their lunch in a more relaxed way and here I was still waiting for my food to be served
(8) I am still waiting for my lunch, feeling of uneasy and patiences started to build up in my circulation system
(9) Do the staff know the sequence of the ordering system or they have a system where “first shall be last”

After: #Waiting too Long for my order#
(1) I had to make an executive decision
(2) Pack my bag and went to the counter
(3) Wanted my money refunded
(4) Food is ready and packed in a takeaway container
(5) I can’t take that food and eat it on skyrail, they don’t allow food on the cable cars, I travel often on the skyrail and know their regulations and policies
(6) Tried to refund me the wrong changed – less amount to what I had paid for
(7) Employee to the customer (me), sorry, I don’t know what happened there, refer to “Before: When I placed my order” and work out the event yourself
(8) Eventually, got the right change, didn’t get the food and walked away peacefully
(9) Went to skyrail and had a very quick lunch there, in a rushed manner but in an aircon atmosphere
(10) Jumped on skyrail to work

From my personal perspective: Customer service industry is a very difficult field but you must have an aggressive form of customer service skills to satisfy customers from all walks of life. It is vital that you have to treat customers as very important clients and it should be every businesses number one priority, second to none because you never know who you might be serving. With modern technologies of social media, dissatisfied customers can make a great impact on the outcome of your business. You may think, it is only one single person but you will slowly realise that the number of customers arriving at your business will slowly fade away. It is a slow process over long period of time and indirect.

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