We won the argument….but lost the customer!

0 argument

In a break from convention (a change is as good as a rest), I have decided this morning to write a ‘blogette’ – a short blog post (story) about customer loyalty. The story is inspired by one of my social media gurus – the only problem, is that I am not sure which one! It is likely that it was one of the people featured in this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vala-afshar/the-top-100-most-social-c_b_3652508.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&utm_content=buffer98404&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer. Whoever it was, I thank you for the inspiration!

The inspiration came from a quote. The quote sounded something like this:

There is no point winning an argument if as a result you lose a customer

It is (in my opinion) a very thought provoking quote. It makes me think of all the times I have interacted with organisations who have either argued with me, or disbelieved my point of view. One such event happened yesterday. My parents were visiting the Golding clan for the weekend. Before they returned to London, they very kindly wanted to treat us all to dinner. We decided to visit a lovely pub local to Chester. As there were seven of us, and because we know the seating area in the pub is small, we decided to book a table – we did not want to risk turning up, only to find out there was no space available.

On phoning the pub, we were told (politely I might add), that ‘we do not accept table bookings’. A relatively long conversation followed. We explained that we were a large group. We explained that my parents had a long drive back to London and that we could not risk not getting  a table. Even when they advised that they were not that busy ‘at the moment’, there was still no budging. WE DO NOT TAKE TABLE BOOKINGS was the stance, and there was absolutely no chance they were going to change their mind.

So can you guess what happened? I reckon most of you will have guessed correctly. Yesterday evening, this particular pub lost out on 7 meals and a couple of rounds of drinks. They can obviously afford to lose that kind of custom. It is very likely the next time we decide to go out for a meal, we will not even consider that establishment as a possible location. They won their argument, but very much list an customer! Was it worth it? You decide.

0 rules

I completely acknowledge the need for rules and policies. However, the best organisations – and when I mean best I mean the ones that are the most customer centric – the ones who genuinely put customers before anything else – are the ones who are willing to break the rules to do what is right for the customer. I am reminded by a famous quote from Sir Richard Branson:

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling  over, and it’s because you fall over that you learn to save yourself from  falling over.”

So think about that quote the next time you are either having an argument with a customer, or when you are the customer being argued with – is it really worth it?

Normal service (i.e. a normal length blog post) will be resumed later this week.

8 thoughts on “We won the argument….but lost the customer!

  1. But the pub may have made an entirely rational and considered decision that, over time, it benefits from applying a first come first served policy rather than tying areas up for long periods with reservations. In my view table reservations have no place in the bar areas of pubs, as opposed to separate restaurants. If I go in a pub and see tables littered with reserved signs it makes me less likely to go there in future.


    • I was hoping you would comment on this! I do not disagree – but are there times when some rules should be overlooked? Can any business really afford to lose custom based on a rigid rule?


      • I don’t know which pub you are referring to, although I might be familiar with it. At the end of the day it’s their judgment as to whether a short-term gain in trade will be outweighed by long-term reputational damage. There are plenty of arguments that might be used against it, such as “thin end of the wedge”, “setting a precedent”, “one rule for them and another for us” etc. For example, on two occasions I have visited two different pubs that had set aside a large part of their normal public area for a private party. They may well have gained business in the short term, but that experience has made me less inclined to visit those pubs in the future.

        From your point of view as a customer, there are plenty of establishments that do offer table reservations, so if that is important to you then you choose to go to one of those.

        Although it’s a different issue, some years ago I was in a pub at lunchtime on a hot day when a couple of lads came in not wearing shirts. The licensee refused to serve them, and they left saying “you’ve just lost about six pints worth there, mate”. In the short term, obviously he had, but in the long term he doesn’t want to be known as the kind of pub that serves shirtless yobs.


      • Great example – in essence it is absolutely down to the choice and discretion of the business (in this case a pub) to decide how they want to run their business. There are times when turning down custom makes sense – as per your example. However, sadly, there are too many examples of organisations turning away business because of an inability to ‘do what is right’, in preference for ‘sticking to the rules’. Thanks so much for interacting with my blog posts – your comments make the subject even more compelling. I must come and visit you and your pub very soon!


  2. If it is a small establishment and the people who have booked don’t turn up (It does happen!) then they could lose out twice (or more) if they have to turn other people away.

    A larger venue can better cope with the vagaries of intermittent customer flow and have some tables for reservations and some for first come first served.

    If I had a small pub I wouldn’t allow table reservations, but if I had a larger one and I had enough space I’d offer limited scope for reservations.

    This final thought occurs to me. If they’d lied and said, “I’m sorry we’re fully booked” would you have been so miffed?


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Peter – you are absolutely right – if they had said they were fully booked, my perception would have been completely different. The truth is, they were not – but could not or would not offer any reassurance or any kind. If as a business owner you can guarantee business, great – but not many can. Interestingly, we ended up in a Chinese restaurant instead. They had a fixed price menu which was amazing value. Everything on the menu was spicy – not great for our three kids. When we asked if any of the dishes could be substituted, ‘NO’ was the resounding answer. This also left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. I will not be going back to that establishment. A few weeks ago, at another restaurant where we were faced with the same issue, a dish was substituted without any issue – I will be visiting that establishment again. It is not for me to tell business owners how to run their business. What I can do though is highlight to business owners what can and will have an affect on customer perception – it is then a strategic or tactical choice as to how to deal with it.


      • Sounds like we probably agree in broad terms – I’ve had many similar experiences and, like you, I’m reluctant to go back!


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