Sandwiches with a smile

Everyone has slightly OCD bugbears. My sister hates people loudly eating crisps next to her on the train and my friend has apoplexy every time a salesperson puts the phone down on her. Mine? Rude waiters/ waitresses. Well, bad customer service in general really. But a brusque waitress has to be the pinnacle!

Waitressing has stood me – and many of my friends – in good stead. Having personally seen the handsome monetary proof of delivering friendly, good service, I cannot help being very observant of waiters and waitresses in a restaurant. Put simply, if they are brusque and rude, they ain’t getting a tip. Because if you spend £50 on a meal out and eat ingredients that, if we’re honest, cost a fiver, the rest of the ‘value’ is purely service (and not having to wash up afterwards).

The catalyst that got me thinking about this was seeing the recently published results of the J.D. Power and Associates Customer Service Roundtable in Las Vegas. Every year  J.D. Power evaluate more than 800 brands by measuring five key customer “touch points,” including people, presentation, process, product, and price.  Jaguar came out well this year, on the grounds of satisfying customers with an outstanding new vehicle sales experience. As I’m not quite in the market for a Jaguar, I got thinking about brands that I enjoy being customer serviced by, so to speak.

One stands out above the rest: Pret A Manger.  In all my years of Pret sandwich, salad and (reckless) brownie eating, I have yet to meet a Pret employee who is anything less than charming, upbeat and super-efficient. And with so much personality! A comment from Ewan Stickley, former Head of Training at Pret, sums it up perfectly. When he was a manager in a Pret store the nicest thing anyone said to him was: “I like coming here because I get served by human beings.” And it is the individuals who deliver good service, not companies.

99.9% of time Pret’s food and service are unimpeachable. It was to my great dismay, then, that the last time I bought a toasted sandwich from Pret for lunch, when I opened my precious, warm cargo back at the office it was…BURNT! And not just a bit, one corner was officially inedible. But did I go back in a huff? No.  

It’s this kind of customer loyalty that will stand companies in good stead when the going gets tough. It’s all very well having a sparkling marketing strategy and smashing its profits, but if its ‘brand ambassadors’ (read: staff) are rude, at some point a company will feel the consequences. It may start off as a mere ripple, but it could become an angry customer-fuelled tsunami. Something to bear in mind in the age of the highly visible (and potentially incendiary) online restaurant review!

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