Desperately Seeking Sushi

My friend Betsy and I got together for lunch the other day, at a Japanese restaurant near her office. She’d taken me there once before, and I was looking forward to experiencing another terrific sushi lunch.

We sat down, ordered our food and continued our conversation. A few minutes later, the waitress arrived with lunch.

Mine was fine, exactly what I ordered. Betsy’s however, was wrong; the waitress had brought her something different by mistake.

That’s when the fun began. The waitress wouldn’t “allow” Betsy to exchange the order, insisting instead that she brought exactly what had been requested. As the conversation got more animated, and now fearing for the life of our waitress, I glanced over Betsy’s shoulder and was relieved to see the manager making his way towards our table to intervene.

Hang on, it gets worse. To my utter amazement, the manager also insisted that the order had been taken correctly, explaining that he had overheard Betsy’s request while cleaning up a neighboring table a few minutes earlier, and that she was in fact, in the wrong.

So here’s my question for you: Who was right about the food order, Betsy or the waitress?

Here’s my answer: It doesn’t matter. Even if Betsy had made the mistake — which is likely since both the waitress and manager claimed to have heard something different — there’s nothing to be gained by proving a customer wrong. There is however, plenty to be lost.

In this case, for less than a dollar’s worth of food ingredients (the cost of throwing out the original order and bringing something else), that restaurant lost a loyal customer in Betsy; a once in a while customer in me; and all of our combined future business from now until approximately the end of time. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you (or in this case, that you’re feeding).

Bottom Line: The way I look at it, you’ve got two choices in your approach to handling customers: You can be right, or you can be rich. If you insist on winning arguments with your customers and clients, while you may enjoy the momentary satisfaction that comes with proving a point, you’re going to spend a lot of time refilling your leaky (customer) bucket.

If, on the other hand, you seek to solve problems from the perspective of making the lives of the people who give you their money easier, your customers will love you for it. Particularly the ones who already know (without your assistance) that the mistake was theirs.

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