Bonefish Grill and The Importance of Being MORE than Earnest

Back in February I posted a comparison between two, quite different, customer experiences: Mike’s Camera vs Bonefish Grill.

For those who’ve not seen it the post tells the story of how each company messed up a reservation and how they handled it. It describes how Bonefish Grill had been a family favorite of ours but that they had so badly goofed on a Mother’s Day reservation that we probably would never go back.

Well, I’m here to say we finally gave them another chance. I’d received an email promotion for a steak and lobster meal that sounded too good to pass up so, against my better judgement, and swayed by memories of good meals, we decided to give them another shot.

The evening started off fine, we were seated quickly, and promptly served drinks. Then things started to slip a little.

We were told that they were out of one of the items on the specials menu and that the pork chops were gone as well. No worries, neither item had been on our radar. Moments later we were told that they were also out of tilapia. I thought it was kind of odd that they’d be out of so many different items at 6:45 on Sunday with no wait. The big issues now though was that the global tilapia shortage meant there were three or four additional items that were out of play and those items WERE on our radar.

As the server left to give us a chance to reassess our orders I leaned across the table and said, “If they’re out of the special I’m thinking we just leave.”

When the server came back to take our order she apologized for the tilpia scarcity and offered free desserts, on them, to make up for it. “Ok,” I thought, “At least they’re trying and they’re landing in the sweet spot for customer service so…good on ’em.”

To make a long story short…

The special was great, and in stock. The other meals were up to snuff, our expectations for good food exceedingly well met. Our drinks were kept full. All in all an earnest effort by the staff even if we’d been mildly put out by a certain level of snarkiness that would normally have been just on the outer edge of not quite good but barely acceptable.

Three desserts duly arrived and a short time later so did the check. Full charge for the post dinner dainties included.

Normally, with good food and good service we would merely have pointed out the mishap. But with a recent history of bad experience, snarky service, and a failed promise we’d had enough.

My children and I were all for writing “free dessert” in on the tip line on the bill but my wife is much nicer than we are so we tipped the staff somewhat below our normal standard and departed somewhat put out by the experience.

So what can be learned by the failure of a second chance?

1. You never know when a customer is giving you a second…or last…chance.
Because of that the level of service needs to be consistently high whether people are coming in for the first time or the last chance.

2. When circumstances conspire against you, up the game, for real.
Being out of goods isn’t the fault of the staff. But the ability to make it better IS in their control, or should be. When circumstances go bad you have to up the game not just with lip service but with over the top customer experience.

3. When you’ve lost a fan you’ve lost more than a sale.
Bonefish may or may not care if I ever come back. They can point to the fact that they swayed me back with an enticing promotional offer. Fair enough. What they have lost though is the fact that I no longer recommend them, something I used to do regularly and often.

Have you ever had a customer experience that took you from fan to ban like the one we just had last night?


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