The Oblivious Customer Service Error


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Yesterday I headed up the coast of Israel on my vacation in the north. Before talking about bad customer service, I am obligued to say that I loved two restaurants located side by side in the town of Nahariyah, on the northern coast.

One is called Ida’s and the other one Adelle. Both served a fusion of Jewish, Arab and French cuisine that was world class. The service was very friendly and inviting, something that sometimes is lacking in Israel. The atmosphere was exceptionally clean, with gently resonating, familiar and pleasant tunes.

We were now heading to Rosh HaNikra, a beautiful and historic location at the border with Lebanon.

But before we got there, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in a community called Gesher HaZiv, where kibbutz members have a little capitalistic enterprise going. We arrived at 7PM in our room to the sound of dogs howling in the night. The sounds were intermittent, 15 minutes off – 15 minutes on. We told the manager that we would not be able to sleep. Her response was that she couldn’t hear it. We called 3 times with the same complaint and 3 kibbutz members said they couldn’t hear it. This was just not the kind of thing you say if it is not true. So at 10 PM we told them we had no choice but to check out and find a hotel room back in Nahariyah. On the way out I saw face-to-face the impact of negative viral word of mouth when a couple pulled up in the parking lot and asked us about the facility. That was a lesson in how fast negative publicity spreads. I wasn’t even trying to be negative. I just answered their questions honestly. When we finally arrived at the Nahariyah hotel, the manager mentioned that he gets serveral guests who arrive after a negative experience at the bed and breakfast. He said, “They are so accustomed to the sound of howling dogs that they simply don’t hear it.” The big lesson for business here seems to be that we sometimes operate in ways that become so routine, that we fail to see or appreciate that others view the situation with not only different eyes, but with a real validity that if we recognized and addressed would improve our business. If we let these types of problems fester, where we are oblivious to real customer service issues, we will be obliterated, our companies ruined. So listen hard and take each complaint seriously, without discounting the customer service problem presented.

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