Branding, shmanding… What about Customer Service?

It started with a comment overheard at the board table last week. Someone mentioned a disappointing experience at the new Stock restaurant located at the top of Toronto’s Trump Tower. Digging deeper, I found it was a prime example of the utter failure of customer service. Why do some brands feel that their self-proclaimed luxury status should exempt them from caring for their customers?

Stock Dining Room

A look inside the elegant Stock dining room. Photo Credit: Stock Restaurant

The story on Stock was exposed by reviewer Amy Patakiof the Star. She paid two incognito visits to the new restaurant and described the domino effect of customer service failure that was evident during both her lunch and dinner visits. Stock aims to host the hip bankers and posh millionaire-wannabes of the downtown core. However, Pataki described the prices as the only posh aspect of the experience. The worst possible outcome of any restaurant experience, be it high end or a take-out burger joint, is terrible food. The combination of leaves-one-looking-for-more dishes and sky high prices did not impress the Star columnist. And neither did the slow and unpleasant service. No one should wait an hour for the bread basket, or half an hour to be able to pay; not to mention enduring a malfunctioning fire alarm, which knocked out the elevators. For 20 minutes. On the 32ndfloor. And when Pataki followed up by allowing the PR team a chance to explain themselves, they were uninterested.

In contrast with Pataki’s review, Alan Vernon from dine.to did not have any complaints about service. He actually commended the knowledgeable staff as the only good thing about the establishment. In his review he mentioned that any patron walking into a restaurant associated with The Donald would expect certain grandiosity. His hype was short lived, as in his words, “once seated, our carriage turned back into a pumpkin.” From the cheap-looking décor elements to the overpriced yet unimpressive dishes, Vernon’s final thoughts described the place as coming short of expectations.

Customer experience can make or break your brand, especially in the hospitality industry. People leave the comfort of their homes to be catered to, and have all their needs looked after. Failing to deliver on the comfort and welcome factor will strip away the fundamentals of hospitality and leave you with nothing more than food on a plate.

Food service marketers need to remember that creating and maintaining the brand does not stop once the marketing strategy has been implemented and the advertising has hit the streets. Much of your branding happens after the brilliant creative has done its job of encouraging people to experience the brand. Successful brands share a couple of key after-the-fact elements: delivering on their promises, and great customer service. Once a brand is introduced to the world, it settles itself in relation to other brands in its category: affordable versus extravagant, durable versus seasonal, boxed wine versus a bottle of vintage… you get the point. The expectations of the world are set regarding the brand even before one would experience it. Brands that promise to deliver the good stuff must have a marketing strategy that implements the brand consistently across the board: in the quality of the product, the service, the environment, and the experience, in order to survive.

Branding must also be extended to the front-line warriors of your company. Marketers who do a good job of supporting their internal brand community find that their own people will live and breathe the brand. And when they do, your customers will have an increased trust in you and what you are selling them. It is somewhat easy to persuade people to try your brand once, but to keep them, you must deliver the promises your brand made. It is hard to say what lasts longer, the memory of a good brand experience, or that of a bad one. Have you had a customer experience that changed a brand for you?

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Krisztina Virag

About Krisztina Virag

Krisztina has years of promotions and event marketing experience with a flare of PR in both the hospitality and fitness industries. With an unquenchable thirst for travel and all things food related, she is always looking for the opportunity to create ideas that will pop. As she would say, in life you need 3 things: good shoes, good food, and good company, because the rest writes itself.