So late last night my wife and I decided to go out for a drink. We hadn’t seen each other much this week and we were both in pretty good spirits. Our first choice was closed for the night, so we decided to make a stop at another Bayshore Mall favorite, Buffalo Wild Wings. We go there all the time. We’re both wing nuts. She and her Medium-flavored boneless, and I and my traditional Hot BBQ and Caribbean Jerk. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Anna has a particular affection for their Strawberry Daiquiri (make it a double), and they’ve got a large selection of beer on tap. Ironically, for the selection they have, I sometimes have a hard time finding one of my favorites. When we first started going there right after it opened a year ago, the service was consistently mediocre (at best). It has been improving over time, but our experience last night was remarkable. Remarkably bad.
Bayshore Buffalo Wild Wings, you’ve been spied.
We arrived at the relatively dead restaurant around 10:30pm and were half-greeted by a hostess saying we could seat ourselves. As we were in good spirits, we didn’t give this much thought and proceeded to a booth by the window. We were pleasantly greeted by our waitress, who for the sake of keeping the innocent nameless, will remain as such. She was great. We placed our order on her first visit–some fries, 6 wings, a daiquiri, and a tall New Glarus Totally Naked. Although it’s not one of my favorite beers, for my taste, it’s among the best tap options there. Before finalizing the order, she verified that they still had that beer. They did. Hats off to her for double checking this. Our drinks and snack arrived quickly, and we enjoyed a great time. Talking, laughing, drinking. All the things that make for being in a good mood. When the waitress cleared the empty trays, she asked if we needed anything else. Looking at Anna’s still half-full daiquiri and my empty beer glass, I opted for a second. This is where things turned south.
The Totally Naked wasn’t totally hitting the spot tonight so I thought I’d get something else for my second round. Rather than have the server work through a list, I decided to take a hike from our seat to the bar to see what was available. Yes, it’s actually a big place. It’s a hike. I saw a tap handle for a local beer that looked familiar. A beer I had a Summerfest. Or so I thought. (Being a local brewery that I actually like, I won’t name the beer.) I ordered a tall, the waitress put it on our bill, and I made the return journey to my seat. It looked great. Nice pour. About a one inch head. When I took my first sip, my taste buds revolted. If they weren’t confined to my mouth, they would have probably run away with my nose following close behind. It was awful. However, I’ve tried enough new beers to know not to rule out a beer by the first sip. Some of my favorites had to grow on me. I drank again. There was no balancing going on here. More revolt. My brain is saying, “Ok, Brian, this is in your head. It can’t be that bad. Keep drinking. You’ll get used to it. It’ll be fine.” I took another drink, this time with more commitment. Revolt. It was like Tienanmen Square in 1989. My mouth was laying down in front of the tanks. There would be no more drinking of this beer.
In case you haven’t picked up on it, I didn’t like the beer.
Keep in mind now that I’m in great spirits. A great mood. My beer is bad, but I’m still having fun. I look around for my server to see if there’s any chance of a replacement. I don’t see her. As we talk, I continue to be on the lookout for the waitress. After about 5 minutes, I gave up and make the trek back to the bar. As luck would have it, Katelyn (sp?), the manager, along with my waitress and the bartender were all there. Remember, I’m in a good mood. Not a drunk “good mood” (I only had one beer), but an honest-to-goodness, having-a-great-time, good mood. My tone of voice should reflect this. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
Me (to the bartender): “Hi, I just ordered this beer, and it’s apparently not what I thought it was. I really don’t like it. I gave few sips to make sure, but I really can’t drink it.”
Bartender: Unsure what to do, he looks over at the manager. “He doesnt’ like his beer.”
Me (to the manager): “Yeah it’s apparently not what I thought it was. I really don’t like it. I gave few sips to make sure, but I just really can’t drink it.”
Katelyn: “Well, is there something wrong with it?”
“Since it’s not what I thought it was, and I’ve never had it before, I wouldn’t really know.”
“Well is it flat or skunked?”
“No it’s not flat, and I don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like. I’ve never had it. It might be exactly how it supposed to be. I wouldn’t know.”
“Well, if there was something wrong with it, I could replace it, but if you just don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do.”
Slight jaw drop. Eyebrows slightly raised. Stare. “Really?”
“Yes, if there’s nothing wrong with it ….”
“So you won’t replace it?”
“Not if it’s just that you don’t like it.”
Jaw drops slightly more. I notice my waitress and the bartender looking very uncomfortable at this point. “Ok, then.”
I could have been “that guy” and got what I wanted, but not wanting to sour my mood, I was too nice. I left my $4 beer on the bar and walked back to the table.
Having witnessed the entire conversation, my waitress rushed over to our table and began apologizing profusely. I assured her that I didn’t blame her at all. She had nothing to do with it. She returned again a couple moments later continuing to apologize. I reassured her that I didn’t fault her, and I told her that what her manager didn’t know is who she was dealing with. I said, “I’m active in social media and I’m a customer experience blogger. I’ll definitely be writing a review.” The look on her face was priceless.
She proceeded to bring the bill, I paid (leaving a nice tip feeling bad for her), and wrote on the top of the receipt, “for your review, go to mkespy.com.” We left. I hope she gave it to her manager. Katelyn, if you’re reading this, perhaps you should rethink your policy. I like your food, so I’ll be back, but how many people reading this article will take a pass? How many people will see this on Twitter, Yelp, Urban Spoon, or Google Places? How many people are you going to lose over that $4 beer? I know a certain CX Consultant available for hire. You might want to think about it.
I took the matter to twitter this morning with this tweet to get some insight from others. Was it odd for me to simply hope for a replacement? Should I have expected one? Was this common practice among bars and restaurants? I needed some backup to confirm my suspicions. Thanks to @anthonypsherman @tossasoccerdad @bootyp and @bradkoenig for your insights.
Here’s the irony of the situation. I didn’t expect a replacement. I hoped for one. My history there has shown me that Buffalo Wild Wings needs to learn a thing or two about the customer service aspect of their experience. As a matter of fact, had a replacement been given, I probably would have been just a likely to write a review about how they had finally gotten it together, did a great job, and exceeded my expectations.
Customer Experience Lessons
- Great CX is in the details.
- Know who you’re dealing with. Many times you don’t.
- A small gesture to exceed expectations will make for a remarkably good experience.
- Ultimately this was a failure of policy.
- Recognize the “make or break” moments.