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Last Wednesday was my birthday. (If you want to know how old I am, click this link.)

My smokin’ hot wife, Kay, took me out for my favorite meal – pizza! – at The Rock here in Federal Way. The Rock has pretty good pizza, pretty good beer, and head-slamming buckets of alcoholic drinks. I was looking forward to a great customer experience.

d0000fb5da3b05eb1b1055ce082590bfYes, I said “buckets of alcoholic drinks.” Mainly, I’m a beer and wine guy. Occasionally, I’ll have a martini or maybe scotch, but not that often. And the last time I intentionally went to a bar that served buckets of booze, I still used a fake ID and phones had cords.

As we sat down at the bar, Kay immediately announced, “It’s his birthday!” The bartender, Amber, asked, “How old are you?” I told her to click this link.

Amber suggested I try one of The Rock’s famous bucket drinks, so I asked what’s in one. Amber explained, “Well. It’s got some type of rum and whiskey, mixed with some type of tropical mixture – I think some type of pineapple juice, maybe some lime juice, I think maybe grenadine, and we stuff it with fruit wedges.

Her description didn’t instill some type of confidence in me.

Oh, and you can only have two.

I’ll take it!

IMG_1504-e1435817369996-225x300So Kay and I shared a bucket while waiting for our pizza. Good thing the bucket was pretty big, because we waited a LONG time for our pizza. And as it turned out, everybody else in the bar and restaurant waited a long time for their food, too.

It actually became a little ridiculous when we’d waited over an hour, but I was getting a little rummy, so I hung in there. (Get it? A little “rummy!”)

Others weren’t so patient. Many people started complaining, loudly. Amber was clearly unsettled and apologized a lot. Something about the entire wait staff having to be replaced. Not the bartenders, just the wait staff. She didn’t share WHY the entire staff was replaced, so my bucket-addled brain conjured up some type of black market pizza ring running out of The Rock after it closed at night. “You want mushrooms on that? It’s gonna cost ya.

Kay commented how some people might not come back after this bad experience, and she’s probably right. The compounding problem is those people will most likely share their unhappiness with their friends and co-workers.

I give Amber big thumbs up for her service, but management at The Rock could’ve handled this situation so much better. They could’ve explained to everybody arriving what was going on, ask for their patience, and offered some sort of freebie – maybe a dessert, or something. In my experience, as long as people understand the expectation up front, they’re usually okay with it. Even if some groups decided not to stay, it wouldn’t be because of a bad experience.

The fact is every single time our customers and prospects have contact with us, one of three things happen:

  • That customer experience REINFORCES their perception of us
  • That customer experience ENHANCES their perception of us
  • That customer experience DIMINISHES their perception of us

The Rock’s management made the mistake of trying to weather the storm, rather than being completely transparent about the situation. Amber did her best to placate her customers, but she shouldn’t have had to.

Remember, EVERYTHING walks the talk. How you answer the phone. How you greet people. Every letter. Every package. What you wear. How your people talk when a customer is around. Everything.

Too bad The Rock didn’t understand this. I never did get my second bucket.