Saturday, August 7, 2010

An example of poor service management

Kareems is a renowned chain of restaurants in Mumbai. I knew little about them before I went there on a Saturday a few weeks back. I love a well cooked meal and do not go to the restaurants to evaluate their service management, but this particular experience stood out so clearly that I had to take notice. It’s raining in Mumbai these days, and when we reached Kareems for lunch, it was raining really hard, so it was a relief when their attendant noticed that there were 4 of us and came down to the car with two huge umbrellas.
The waiter mentioned that the kitchen was closing and we needed to order immediately. Over time, I have realized that if I do not know much about the restaurant, it’s better to ask what will be available instantly. Normally, items that move off the shelf quickly would be recommended. For me this guarantees that other customers like the item and that the food is freshly prepared. This has worked for me well in the past and I followed my well rehearsed approach. One problem with the approach is that one has to rely on the waiter’s recommendation for quantity and I went with his recommendation. Not only did the food taste like leftovers, our waiter had forgotten to order one of the dishes, and now could not take orders because the kitchen was closed. I would have hoped that this was all, but it was not to be. When we tried to pay by credit card, we were told that credit cards were not accepted. So we paid by cash and were made to wait for the change. On asking for change our waiter mentioned that they were out of change.
An analysis of the ordeal will throw up some interesting concepts in service management. Kareems started on a strong point with their attendant at the gate setting the standards elevating expectations. Subsequent experiences went from bad to worse. The unpleasant experiences kept coming one after the other, a classic fault. In service organizations, if there are no ways to avoid unpleasant experiences, it’s important to pack them together and take them out initially, but Kareems segmented the bad experiences making them seem longer. While I gave them the opportunity of ordering their best dishes, they took away my power of choice not only by mentioning that the kitchen was closing, but also by not ordering an item I had requested. Taking choice away from customers after offering it is the last thing a service organization should do. Paying by credit card is like a ritual for me, but I was forced to pay by cash, for which I had to forage from everyone. By the time I got out, the experience had left a bad taste in my mouth.
The reason behind such service may have been because we had arrived for lunch late and they were short of resources, whatever the reason, at the least, Kareems lost future business it could have generated from me and a few people I know.

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