Why customer service should be your number one priority

Damian Clarkson uses the hospitality industry to illustrate the importance of providing first-rate customer service.

I’m a firm believer in the importance of good customer service, because if your guests don’t feel at home they definitely aren’t going to come back. At our company it’s all about our customers. If they’re not happy you can bet we’ll do our utmost to turn things around, and we’d absolutely never say no to a customer’s request. Not all those in the hospitality share our enthusiasm, though, and for reasons I can’t fathom many restauranteurs seem to delight in their lack of care for their own customers!

A prime example of this is Chinatown’s Wong Kei, a name which has long been synonymous with horrendous service. Just Google ‘rude restaurant London’ and watch as your page immediately fills with references to this restaurant and its customer service crimes.

Wong Kei is now under new ownership, however, and has for the first time begun attracting positive attention, by pledging to be nice to people! Long gone are dishes delivered by snarling waiters, with a side of grumpy insults. About time too!

Another customer service calamity which springs to mind occurred on board a Valentine’s Day Ryanair flight. Customers were stranded on the stationary plane for three hours, but what Ryanair did (or didn’t do) about it spoke volumes.

Despite being scheduled to leave at 8pm this short-haul flight didn’t actually depart until 7am the following morning, leaving Ryanair with some very unhappy customers to deal with. The trapped travellers were given no food or water throughout their time on the aircraft, and disappointment soon turned to anger. No less than 50 customers even called the police!

There’ll be red faces aplenty at Ryanair, because one passenger, João Pinheiro, recorded the entire ordeal and posted a video of his experience on YouTube – a video which has since received over 2,000,000 views. The film shows guests begging for food and water, and demanding to be let off the aircraft. A damning insight into customer service at Ryanair.

Of course this should never have happened, but it did, just months after Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary pledged to ‘treat passengers better and stop p*****g people off unnecessarily’.

Setting The Table by Danny Meyer is essential reading for those in the hospitality industry looking to improve on customer service. It’s about how to engage your team and create a truly successful company which your customers love. In fact Michael O’Leary could probably use a copy! ‘The excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better,’ says Danny, advice I’ve found invaluable whilst growing The London Kitchen. I would implore likeminded people to give it a read.

There’s simply no sense in treating your customers badly; without them you’d be nowhere. In our business, the team knows that the customers’ wishes must come first, so whether a client needs to up their guest numbers at the last minute or completely change their chosen menus, no task is too difficult. We even drove a bride and groom back to their hotel once! It may be a cliché but it’s got to be said – the customer is always right. 

Damian Clarkson is founder of The London Kitchen.

Further reading on customer service

D Clarkson

Damian Clarkson

Damian is the MD and Founder of The London Kitchen and a consultant working with hospitality sector companies.