Dos Caminos 3rd Avenue in New York City

People who know me well will tell you that I’m a positive, upbeat person. Oh, I see the negatives in situations, and I include them in discussions and analysis, but my demeanor, even in the face of bad things, is positive almost to the point of deserving the label “Pollyannaesque”. I’m just certain there’s a pony under this pile of crap. I just know it!

But you can’t see good without knowing something about bad. It’s the reason we created The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame, and why I tell you stories about bad customer service. Bad customer experiences can usually be turned into good one through customer service executed in a thoughtful, caring, honest way. It’s actually quite simple.

Today I want to tell you the story of how a restaurant did business in so perfect a way that what could have been a story of bad customer service and a trip to the Wall of Shame turned into the opposite. Seriously, this was perfect; I may need to create a Customer Service Wall of Sunshine and Happiness.

On Saturday evening I was dining in Dos Caminos on Third Avenue in New York City. Dos Caminos is an interesting place in that what appears to be just another Mexican restaurant serves up food that’s different enough to make them worth visiting. I think of Dos Caminos as my favorite not-quite-a-Mexican-restaurant.

During appetizers, my partner found—there’s not another way to put this—a hair in her food. We looked closely. We were certain that the hair belonged to neither her nor me. This is not OK. It’s the stuff failing NYC Health Department Sanitary Grades are made of.

We flagged down our waiter. He was appropriately horrified and assured us we’d not be charged for that appetizer. He sent over his manager, who was apologetic in a way that seemed genuine, and who promised to stop by again later in our meal. We stayed calm, our meal continued, we had a couple of drinks, and when we asked for the check the contaminated appetizer was still on the bill.

As we were paying we mentioned the lack of any gesture having been made. The waiter seemed embarrassed, took away the bill, and sent the manager back over. The manager removed our drinks from the bill. They represented nearly half of the complete tab.

We never asked that Dos Caminos do anything other than take away the hair and express concern for what had happened.

Customer Service is simple. If you care about the quality of the customer service you provide, address problems openly, honestly, and apologetically, the only question that should remain is what kind of gesture you make to tell your customers that you want them exit the encounter with, so to speak, a good taste in their mouths. Offering to not charge for a contaminated item was silly, of course, and on the other end of things I could argue that the “right” course of action would have been comping our meal completely.

But the only detail that ultimately matters is that Elias Mandilaras, the General Manager at Dos Caminos Third Avenue in New York City, made us feel taken care of. He made us feel as though Customer Service matters at Dos Caminos.

And by the way, while liquor sales are where restaurants make most of their profit, that also means that it’s where they can most readily afford to take a hit on any given meal. The truth is, comping our drinks didn’t cost Dos Caminos anything.

And that’s a win/win. Dos Caminos looked good, lost nothing, and made us leave not only thinking good things about them, but saying them. Good Customer Service works that way It’s only when companies start looking at customer service as a cost center that delivering customer service becomes problematic.

By the way: if you happen to look up Dos Caminos Third Avenue on Yelp you’ll see that they have just three stars out of five. Ignore that; it’s a function of the problem with on-line reviews.

And if you need help honing your company’s customer service processes, you know where to turn.

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