Do you complain about bad service? I know I do, but I don’t do it to get compensation. I do it so that they know what went wrong and won’t repeat the same mistake to the next customer.

This thing about being in the service line is that you have to always think from the customer perspective, but here’s where the trouble lies. Different customers have different expectations when they make a complain. Some customers expect a compensation, whereas others, like myself, expect them to acknowledge the issue and make corrections, where necessary, to ensure that the same mistake does not happen again – be it to me or to another customer.

For something such as finding a hair in the soup, I’d have just expected the restaurant to apologise and change the soup. I don’t think they should just tell the customer that it’s common to find hair in food. I’m sure it’d soon be common to find cut fingernails, nose droppings, ear wax and droplets of unidentifiable perspiration in the food too. However, I feel that the chef of the restaurant should take pride in the food that he prepared to be serve and not simply leave it to the floor people to do a shoddy job.

ALL she wanted was a sincere apology for a strand of hair found in a bowl of shark’s fin soup at her wedding dinner.

But the matter blew up into a month-long exchange between the bride, Mrs Wendy Scully, 29, and Starworth, the company which runs events at the Chijmes Hall.

When the public relations manager felt she was getting nowhere, she shot a letter to this newspaper on Tuesday.

By then, it was not just the 15cm strand of hair that riled her, but Starworth general manager K.K. Ng’s suggestion that it could have come from one of her guests.

‘He told me it is common to find hair in food,’ she told The Straits Times.

The VIP table’s guests, which included her husband’s parents and siblings, had not touched the serving bowl, so how could their hair have got in, she asked.

When contacted, Mr Ng said he had suggested it only as a possibility.

He added that none of the staff that night had long hair.

Another sticking point with Mrs Scully was that she had to wait almost a month – until Mr Ng returned from a month’s medical leave – before she could speak to him on the phone over this matter on Nov 15.

His reply scuttled the company’s earlier efforts to settle Mrs Scully’s unhappiness with an offer of a set dinner for four worth about $270, or a $300 dining voucher.

Mrs Scully had rebuffed the offer, saying she spent $20,000 on the dinner, and that she wanted an amount enough for her to take the table’s guests out to dinner again to make it up to them.

The company stuck to its initial offer until Mr Ng’s return, believing it was fair because only the bowl of shark’s fin soup was affected, and the staff had offered to change it right away.

Last week, Mr Ng even upped the offer to an eight-course meal for 10, but it was his refusal to accept full responsibility that made her decide to go public with her story.

A simple apology would have sufficed, said Mrs Scully, who said her in-laws keep asking her if the company has given an explanation.

‘At the very least, apologise for taking so long to call me back, accept responsibility for the incident and offer a sincere apology for upsetting me and my mother-in-law,’ she said.

A service consultant said Starworth should have acknowledged Mrs Scully’s anger and admitted to its fault immediately.

Said OTi Consulting Singapore’s chief executive Helen Lim-Yang: ‘When customers are angry, they don’t want to hear excuses or pushing of blame. All they want is for their emotions to be acknowledged and for someone, preferably senior management, to apologise profusely.’

And the apology should not come across as defensive, she added.

Mr Ng replied that an apology was made on the spot that night by the operations manager, and that the follow-ups with Mrs Scully focused on ‘dollar and cents compensation because we thought it was what she wanted’.

But he stopped short of accepting responsibility for the incident, saying that for something ‘debatable’ like this, it ‘may not be very fair to push everything to us’.

‘We are just saying hair was found in food. We do not know where it came from, but we would like to make it up to her by amicably solving this.’

With the current stalemate, Ms Lim-Yang suggested that Starworth set up a meeting to deal with it face-to-face.

‘Coupons or compensations are a quick fix. They still don’t take away the anger or replace a sincere action,’ she said.

marcelp@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 23rd November 2007



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