four little words

I saw Seth Godin’s post on apologies, which jogged my memory about an experience I had. Recently my family and I went out to dinner. We normally go to a play, and dinner but because of some time factors we could only work out dinner this time

So we chose to go to dinner at the Melting Pot. Which is a fabulous fondue restaurant if you haven’t ever been. It’s somewhat of a dinner and event rolled into one, since you’re actually cooking your own food. Plus, you get your own colorful fondue skewers. It can’t be beat.

It really was a great experience with a couple courses of food and fondue combos. Our server was excellent, part entertainer with great service. Until we got to dessert. They were out of dark chocolate, unfortunate since about half of the dessert options use dark chocolate. We just substituted milk chocolate and moved on with life.

The manager came around and asked how our meal was, we responded “great, except you’re out of dark chocolate” his response was classic, and ultimately ruined part of the dinner for me.

“It’s not our fault.”

According to Yehuda’s list (which Seth linked to) this is a 2. Out of 10. Next to last on the options when apologizing. Now please allow me to rave for a moment. In a zero-sum world, it’s someone’s fault. The truck may have been late, or the order bad, or whatever but when it’s between your fault, and my fault, it’s ultimately your fault. Not that the chocolate isn’t in, but that you’re not giving me the experience I expect (and paid for).

This is also a botched chance to take a bad situation and make it spectacular. What if, instead of, “it’s not our fault” it’s “we are going to give you free dessert because we messed up” or “come back for a dessert course next week, on us” or really any other sentence choice other than, “it’s not our fault.” If I was the Melting Pot, I’d rather have positive chatter about the experience and create a happy customer, even at a higher short-term cost, because in the long-term I’ll come back, and spend more money and with an product like the Melting Pot I’ll go with my friends, and they’ll spend money and have a good time.

Next time, maybe his words should be, “I’m sorry, how can I fix this?” Ok, so that’s seven words. But at least I’d tell my friends about the GREAT experience.

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1 Response to “four little words”


  1. 1 houkhouse February 7, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Amen! I just read Seth’s apology post also.

    There’s a way to say “sorry” and mean it and a way to say “sorry” and patronize you. Few businesses really get it. And, pray tell, why do they ask if they don’t really want to know?

    I teach my kids more about real apologies than most ANY company I’ve recently experienced. A real apology is about what you’d do differently and the impact of the situation and FIXING it in the short and long term.

    I’ve got a coffee company I’m currently dealing with. I’ve written the CEO, finally, so I’ll have a story to post soon.

    Great post – thanks!


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