Customer Service Education: How To Lose A Customer For Life

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My friend Benny told me about a local restaurant that serves a variety of Chinese dim sum dishes, but could benefit from a customer service education course. He went there with five friends for a business lunch and ordered widely from the menu. Each dish featured six bite-sized items, one per person.

Most of the food was delicious, but one tofu dish did not measure up. All six diners popped the tofu into their mouths. Then all six turned up their noses at the taste. The tofu had gone rancid.

Tofu disintegrates pretty quickly in the mouth, so everyone swallowed hard and reached quickly for their drinks to wash away the taste. The waitress apologized right away and promised to tell the owner, which is a lesson learned in basic customer service education classes. Fortunately for my friend, better-tasting dishes soon followed.

But when the bill was presented at the end of the meal, the tofu dish was still included! The waitress apologized again and referred to the restaurant owner. The owner appeared and defended the bill and provided a customer service education for others on what not to do.

“But you ate the tofu,” he said, “so we still have to charge you. If the tofu was no good, why did you eat all six pieces?” Despite their protests, the tofu remained on the bill. Talk about a business owner in need of a customer service education!

And that was the last bill ever paid at that restaurant by any of the six lunchtime diners…or their families…or their friends…or their business associates.

Now, what should the owner have done had he understood basic customer service education lessons? Provide free desserts or a round of free drinks for everyone at the table? Immediately remove the tofu from the bill? Apologize personally and thank the group for their valuable feedback? Promise to alert the chef immediately, and do so? Upon departure, give each of the six diners a business card from the restaurant with a hand-signed promise from the owner for “Six delicious and fresh tofu dim sum…free anytime within the next two months?” All of the above?

This approach would help ensure that each diner returned in the near future, giving the restaurant – and the tofu – another chance. But no one eats just tofu. So there would be another round of lunchtime bills to pay by each diner…and their families…and their friends…and their business associates. This would have been a customer service education lesson he could have taken to the bank.

Key Learning Point For Customer Service Education

Occasionally things do go sour. When it happens to you, fix the problem fast to avoid learning this customer service education lesson the hard way Make it your speed, generosity and concern that gets remembered. Not the trouble, or the tofu.

Action Steps For Customer Service Education

Develop a service recovery policy and display it with pride. Let your customers know: if something goes wrong, you will make it right. This is a customer service education plan you can take to the bank with repeat business.


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Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “Uplifting Service” book and founder of Uplifting Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit

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