Don’t make your customer feel like a kid

I recently visited Cuba and Dominican Republic. Just like when I visited Trinidad & Tobago in February last year, and Brazil in June/July, I become inspired, I get business ideas and I get some good and bad experiences of customer service. I’d like to share two incidents from this last trip – one from Cuba and one from Dominican Republic.

In La Habana, I went to one of these restaurants that offer reasonable food for a pretty good. I sat down, ordered some food and some water to drink with that. So far so good. Food arrived. I figured my water would be brought in pretty fast, but no. I finished eating and got contact with another waiter, since my waiter had mysteriously disappeared since I ordered. I asked for the water again and he went to the “bar” to get it. Nothing happened. I waited for some 5 minutes more, and then the waiter looked at me again and remembered my order. A good sign. I could see and hear that he got the bartender’s attention and reminded him of my order. Nothing happened. I gave up.

I went to the cashier and asked to pay, but not to pay for my water since it never arrived. No real apologies from them, I just got to pay and leave. Part of the story is that practically everyone there was 18-23 years old, pay was probably horrible and very few really wanted to work there. So, service levels and ambition was low. Not surprising. But, on the other hand, here comes a “gringo” who might be able to pay a quite nice tip for someone who doesn’t earn much, but still no effort?! Strange to me.

The lesson: The importance to hire the right people, someone who wants to work there, someone who wants to do a good job.

In Santo Domingo I once again visited a normal restaurant in the more touristy area around the street El Conde. I had a lasagna. What was  a bit different though was that I got it with plastic cutlery. There are two general problems with plastic cutlery. They are weak and they are flexible. In addition to this, these ones were pretty small. It was a struggle to get food to stay on all the way up to the mouth. It makes you feel like a kid again, who is learning how to eat with knife and fork. Not a good feeling. The flexibility also makes you fear that the fork might get stuck on something and then shoot it away when it gets loose.

The lesson: We need to think about how our customers feel. How do we make them feel about themselves when using the product or service we sell them? Will they feel smart and competent? Or will they feel like a kid?

Just like one of my previous (previous just because she isn’t blogging anymore) bloggers Kathy Sierra wrote in Users shouldn’t think about YOU:

“Care ONLY about what your users think of themselves as a result of interacting with your creation.”

P.S. Making someone feel like a kid could be a good thing too, if it means that they feel creative, without worries or similar. But, when it’s not the intention to make them feel like a kid, it’s a bad thing. D.S.

Kristofer Mencák has a M.Sc. in Business Administration from Stockholm School of Economics. He is a consultant, author and lecturer on social media, viral marketing and word of mouth. He has also recently been travelling the world teaching the dance kizomba.

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