Sometimes “company policy” just drives me crazy. It’s easy for company policies and guidelines to be misunderstood as unbendable rules. When it comes to customer service, the words “policy” and “rule” may not be the best choice of words for creating a customer-focused environment. The following story is filled with lessons about customer service. (Maybe this has even happened to you.)
Recently, I went to a dinner at a restaurant with two friends. A fourth person was supposed to join us, but he was running late, so he told us to start without him. We told the hostess we needed a table for four. When she noticed there were only three of us, she asked where the fourth was. We told her he was running late and that we were going to order without him. That’s when she said, “I’m sorry. We can’t seat you until your entire party is here.”
Now, I can appreciate this restaurant’s position. Some guests will sit down and refuse to order until the rest of their parties have shown up. In such cases, I can understand the need for a rule. Sometimes a restaurant will tell their guests that they will be seated at the very next table once the rest of the party arrives — an acceptable solution. But this did not apply to us. We told the hostess we wanted to order without the fourth member of our party present, but this made no difference to her. She had been programmed to follow company policy. Period.
But back to the story — what happened next could have come from an episode of “Seinfeld”: I said to the hostess, “OK, then, there are only three of us. We need a table for three.”
Her response? “Sir, you’re lying to me.”
Oh, darn! She caught me! So I said, “Please just give us a table for three.”