Not your cup of tea?

Sometimes things don’t always go to plan. I find it fascinating how companies try to put things right, or sometimes they don’t bother, or worse they don’t realise there’s a problem.

I took a flight recently with Virgin Atlantic in Business Class. Expectations are high, it’s Virgin, they sell a dream, a wonderland, an almost hedonistic existence that you’re choosing something better than the rest. So, I don’t know, but I guess I was surprised when this landed on my table, literally.


Call me a perfectionist?  It wasn’t a bumpy flight but it’s the little things that make all the difference to me, especially from a British company who pride themselves on being better than the rest.   Making a decent cup of tea should surely be part of their DNA?  I did of course pass on my feedback. The standard responses came my way: ‘sorry, sorry, this is not typical, we will have a word with whoever’ followed by the usual throw of air miles to shut me up.

I know, I know, a first world problem, eyes roll; “think yourself lucky you had tea in a mug” but this is Virgin Atlantic and this is business class. It’s something I still remember and it makes me ask the question about standards. What’s acceptable and what isn’t? Don’t get me wrong, airline cabin crew have a thankless job at times but it must come down to common sense. Would the guy who served the cup of tea be happy to receive it himself?  Big businesses’ like to lament about ‘putting yourself in your customers’ shoes’; ‘put the customer first’ blah.  I guess it’s the difference between saying it and actually doing it that makes the difference.

As a contrasting experience, here’s one I observed recently at the restaurant chain Cote Brassiere and how they made a bad situation a whole lot better.

Again, things go wrong.  A guys order was basically forgotten.  He continually had to remind staff about his order.  He wasn’t making a big deal out of it.  Of course when he came to pay the age old question: “was everything OK?” followed by the British awkwardness whether to complain or not. It clearly wasn’t OK.  Fortunately he quietly added “well not really, it took you over 30 minutes to serve my breakfast but I understand you’re busy”. He left it at that but unbeknown to him the staff member had mentioned his feedback to her manager. Within a minute, the manager came over, quietly apologised and told him that breakfast was on them.  He insisted that’s not what he wanted but the manager insisted and apologised once more.  I was happy for him and impressed by how the staff dealt with it, quietly, none-confrontational and in the moment.  It was great service from Cote in Kingston in my view and I think the guy in question walked away happy.

Have you had any similar experiences?  I’d love to hear about them.







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