A blog about reputation, marketing and employee morale.

Sorry for any inconvenience (not)

Posted by Drew Schiller on April 18, 2008

The lounge is closed for a private party. Sorry for any inconvenience.Walking into one of my favorite restaurants the other day, I noticed this sign immediately (the Lounge is a bar separate from their normal dining area): “Sorry for any inconvenience.” Oh, that’s nice, they’re sorry that I can’t spend my evening the way I had planned.

This sign sent a negative vibe to me, the customer, because I felt like I wasn’t exclusive enough to be invited to this private party, so now I can’t go there. But it also sends a terrible message to the restaurant staff: we can’t help these people, so just apologize and move on. WRONG. Instead of saying “Sorry for any inconvenience,” why not say, “Visit www.OurWebsite.com to learn how you can reserve the Lounge for your own private party.” That way, the staff is empowered to give a helpful answer, and customers walks away knowing that they too can be part of an exclusive party.

Janet, who has handled grand opening events for Applebee’s and d’Bronx Deli and Pizzeria, has another idea. She suggests that my favorite restaurant could have won me over for good by providing me with a free appetizer coupon for my next visit, or perhaps a $10 gift card. Janet says Applebee’s and d’Bronx used this technique when holding private “friends and family” grand opening events a few days before their restaurants opened to the public. “Uninvited” customers would show up to eat, the restaurant looked open and the parking lot would be full. Instead of turning away potential patrons empty-handed, the hosting staff explained that the cooks and wait staff were practicing on friends and family members. Then they handed out great coupons and to-go menus, and said, “We open on Monday at 11 a.m.—please come back then!”

By providing your employees with the means to handle potentially difficult situations with your customers, you not only ensure a better customer experience, you ensure a better employment experience. Your employees enjoy being able to solve your customers’ problems—empower them with the resources to do so!

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