Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 | 4 min read
Welcome to Newton Highlands, just outside of Boston, and a small restaurant called O’Hara’s. This is where, every Saturday night, we find Dennis, as he grabs takeout for himself and his wife.
There was no greater Zombie Loyalist (someone so in love with your business, that they’ll do your PR for you simply by using you) for O’Hara’s than Dennis, and over time, he got to know the waitstaff and it really became “his” place. Recommendations flourished, and he often sent friends there.
After a while, however, he started noticing errors. Minor things, but enough to give him pause. He mentioned it to the manager, but they kept happening. Finally, after several “last times,” his order was screwed up yet again – and Dennis was done. He let one of the waitstaff know that he’d written them off after giving them too many attempts to get it right.
About three months later, he received a text from the bartender asking for a final shot – saying there’d been “changes,” and he should come see for himself.
Skeptically, Dennis went for one final try at Saturday night takeout. In his words:
“When I got there, the owner ran over to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you for coming back and letting us prove to you we value you as a customer.’ My takeout order was packed to perfection and he refused to let me pay. When I protested, he told me I had done them a favor because I helped them identify a weak link in their process for getting orders out the door correctly. What I truly appreciated, however, was that they accepted responsibility, developed a plan to win me back, and have been spot-on ever since.”
According to Dennis, that was well over a year ago, and at $40 or so per Saturday night dinner, per week, that’s not chump change for a small restaurant. More importantly, Dennis is back to telling the world about O’Hara’s, and shares his love of the restaurant with anyone who will listen. This crisis was averted.
Here’s the thing: You’re going to screw up. It happens to everyone. The key part of crisis management is what you do next.
In Dennis’s case, management stepped in, fixed the problem, apologized, and proved themselves. That’s really all you can do during a potential crisis: get in front of it, apologize, fix it, make it right, and move on.
Losing one Zombie might not seem like a big deal – “Oh, they were only one customer.” And you’re right, they are only one. But if you look at it from a medical perspective, it’s an entirely different story:
If you wake up one morning and find yourself with one pimple, you’re probably not going to head over to urgent care. Chances are it’ll go away on its own. Wake up a week later to 30 pimples? Now you have a skin condition. The pimples are symptoms of something much greater, something that needs to be looked at. In the case of Dennis and O’Hara’s, the minor screw-ups with Dennis’s orders were a symptom of a much bigger issue, that of the way the food was packaged for to-go orders.
By listening to a Zombie Loyalist, the restaurant was able to identify a problem and fix it, not only winning Dennis back but probably preventing lots of other customers from leaving, too. It’s easier to do in a small company, harder to do in a bigger one, but there’s never an excuse for losing Zombies who’ve given you multiple chances to keep them.