+Scott Watson

Thursday, 18 April 2013

What Can Jamie Oliver Learn About Customer Service?

I'm happy to admit...I'm A Fan!

Jamie Oliver has been extremely successful in not just building and growing a financially successful business empire which includes publishing, online products and a chain of restaurants (including one brand which does a commendable job of helping individuals who have faced, or continuing to face severe personal and emotional challenges, learn how to cook, and often, gain employment in either one of his outlets or elsewhere.

So what can Jamie Oliver learn about customer service?

The major lesson to be considered is 'Remember that it is wrong to demand tips from your customers.'

My wife, daughter and I enjoyed a fantastic lunch last week at Jamie's Italian in Leeds.  The food was easy on the eyes and light on the tummy.  I am definitely not a chef or proficient cook.  The only time I invest in the kitchen at home is either when I've been 'encouraged' to do the washing up, or boiling the kettle for a cuppa, so I have no idea how fresh the ingredients were that served to produce a wonderfully array of enjoyable meals for the three of us.  But, the one thing I am proficient at, being a typical Yorkshireman, is spotting and appreciating when 'good' or 'excellent' service has been provided by the waiting staff allocated to us.

OK Service...With An Unwelcome Twist!

If you have ever visited Harvey Nichols cafe in Leeds, you may (or may not) have noticed that when your bill arrives, it already INCLUDES a service charge of 10% of the total bill.  Rather cheeky, as this 'service charge' isn't reserved for the usual group of six or more diner.  Even if you visit on your own, you get smacked with the supposed 'service charge'.  Why does Harvey Nichols do it?  Well, there could be a number of reasons, and they may (or may not) include:

  1. It's Harvey Nichols...and you don't expect it to be cheap or reasonable do you?  You pay to 'enjoy' Harvey Nichols' brand.
  2. The cafe hopes that you, the trusting customer, will be too embarrassed to ask for the 'service charge' to be removed from the bill, so they take their chances...and a liberty too!
  3. The cafe is being blatantly greedy, subversive and eager to scrape in every last penny it can...perhaps because of their hard working, completely professional and oh so responsive staff.
There may be other reasons of course, and the above are just my humle opinions rather than a statement of fact or truth.  But why is it that this brand (as you'll see, just like at least one member of staff at Jamie Oliver's Leeds outlet) feel that it is fair, reasonable or even right, to actively impose such charges on customers, who are ultimately paying their employee's wages, whether or not during a time of austerity?

Back To Jamie's Italian, Leeds

So, we've enjoyed a lovely meal, lots of laughs and the bill arrives.  The waitress who has been 'OK', nothing spectacular, presents me with the bill by placing it down in front of me, wrapped in a promotional leaflet for the restaurant.  Yes, the bill is correct and that is absolutely fine.  Now it comes to the discussion with our nine year old daughter about what, if any, tip to leave for the waitress.  And this is where the trouble begins!

Not content with waiting to be pleasantly surprised with a reasonable tip, for OK (aka 'Average') service, the waitress decided to rather visually draw to our attention the fact that 'Service Charge is not included' by underlining the sentence and asterisking the line too.  Why?  Of course, to draw our attention to the fact that she either, felt she was worth, or indeed expected, us to tip her.  Why?  Not because she is perhaps worthy of a tip. After all, the food was fantastic, but the service was nowhere near that standard.  She wanted to inform us of her desire to obtain additional income from us, simply because she wanted to!

The final line in this comedy of customer dis-service can be seen on the receipt below.  How overbearingly patronising is it to focus attention on a self-serving action, to then write 'Thank you' at the bottom of the receipt?

Mr Oliver.  Please understand, your customers are not always right.  But on this occasion, someone your organisation chose to employ, entrusted with your brand, and pays to be 'professional', got it very badly wrong.  Is this just one example of the darker side of the hospitality industry?  And more importantly, is this a behaviour that your leadership and management teams actively encourage and endorse?

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