The Fun Side of a Service Failure: Or – Why a Company Should Have a Contact Us Connection

Once in a great while, we each encounter service challenges. The experience simply didn’t live up to its expectations (I think that is called the Expectation Gap) and my family and I survived one this evening.

We were in Bellevue, Washington for my daughter’s cheer leading competition – and we chose to go to dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s (now part of the Landry Group of restaurants). The menu offered three types of crab and I was in the mood for some Dungeness Crab. One option was Lemon and Garlic and before ordering I asked our waiter some questions (yes it would warm) and a couple of other small items and placed my order. When the meal arrived, there were 3 large sections (call that a crab and a half) and it was in a deep bowl presented on top of some greens, mushrooms, and other vegetables (which I assume were tasty – but never tasted (see copy of message to the leadership below).

Needless to say – I held two conversations with the manager and never did they offer any form of adjustment (mistake in my humble opinion). Now the story gets better. I decide I will contact the leadership and express my suggestions and observations. I went to their website and they do not have a contact us (via the website) button or link (or if they did – it was well hidden). They did have telephone numbers to call and a mailing address to write a letter, but no electronic communication. I could email banquets and make a reservation at one of their locations, but no direct communication option. But – at the bottom of the page was a Facebook button so I clicked it and landed on their Facebook page. So, humble readers, I used their Facebook page to share my story and I have provided a copy of my text here:

Dear Leadership of McCormick & Schmick’s –

I apologize for using Facebook for this message but your website appears to exclude an “e” connection to your leadership –

Suggestion Number 1: Add that to your website so I don’t have provide public feedback – or if it is on your website – make very easy to connect (examples – look at an airline – they have a contact us by multiple ways so they don’t add to a customer’s frustration).

So – here goes –

Suggestion Number 2: Bellevue, Washington – apparently I must have been the guinea pig on a new method for garlic/lemon crab. Now – I understood it was to be “goopy” as a dish- however I never anticipated a presentation with part of the meal below the crab sections, the crab was split but not cracked, I wasn’t provided any cracking tools (until I requested them) – I wasn’t provided a plate for my shells (they ultimately filled up my bowl with the vegetables (guess what – never tasted the vegetables – since heck, they were covered with shells, and then I had to ask for a picking fork (which the restaurant didn’t really have).

Now I have picked oh, maybe 200+ Dungeness in my life – so picking was no big issue – but it would have been nice if….

Hint #2: provide a plate with some wet (with lemon) towels so my hands could at least feel a little clean – never offered or provided

Hint #3: if the guest suggests there is a presentation dilemma as to how best to devour the dish – do not have the waiter suggest that no one will really complain if you “suck” it out of the shell – that may be fine in a backyard crab feed – but heck – we were sitting in your restaurant and I didn’t feel it was appropriate.

Hint 4: When the manager stops by because the waiter (smartly) suggested it since, – the presentation was a disaster and having been told it was a “new” dish – the manager should not only bring a bigger dish for my shells (thank you) but – offer some form of a comp – I wasn’t asking – but let me suggest

Hint 5: Study Marriott (or better yet the Ritz Carlton) and learn how to deal with a customer disappointment – as the best way to earn loyalty is to fix the hiccups while they are in progress and do not have the customer beg for something (not classy – was just simply going to write the CEO a letter – the old fashioned way – but I think Facebook may be better – since now all of your fans will learn from my experience)

Hint 6: When the waiter was advised that we were already Landry card holders – he might have considered that this wasn’t our first restaurant rodeo – but never even considered that and the manager apparently didn’t either

Hint 7: Fixing challenges is easier if your team handles them at the scene – I asked the manager about the job experience of our waiter and was informed that our waiter was in his first waiting job – he was pleasant but under coached – I suggest having a better education program – that is empower them to fix it – offer a free dessert, discount the meal – something – but nope nothing other than to discuss that maybe there could be a better presentation.

Hint 8: Pay attention to customers that care enough to write more than a simple message – plus I lead global seminars on Total Quality Service – and great real life experience stories are the best ones – you might want to follow up with me. Now – on that website version – you would have captured all of my contact information – now you’ll have to find me the old fashioned way – I hope you do I would like to learn how this experience isn’t repeated.

Hint 9: My wife reminded me that white wine should be served in chilled/cold glass and not in one recently warm from dishwasher – as warm glasses ruin cold wine.

Otherwise – nice location – food tasted well, service was genuine (if simply inexperienced – which I can live with as we all start out somewhere – if you want learn how to coach servers – visit Berns Steakhouse in Tampa – there a waiter will have been an assistant waiter for a year – before being allowed to serve alone and they rarely have service problems) but food quality is only 1/3rd of the challenge any restaurant faces – presentation/ease of eating the meal is another 1/3rd and this was, unfortunately, a failure. I hope you are able to remedy this.

BTW – your website would have also requested, the date of my meal (tonight), the location (Bellevue), the time of reservation (8:15), etc. – to make it easier for you to reach out and connect with me.

I hope you do.

Now – I didn’t sign it since they have my Facebook name from the posting – we’ll see if they reach out. I will let you know if they do. Service failures occur frequently. It is how a business fixes the problem that separates success from failure. McCormick & Schmick’s was a Portland restaurant group (my home town) and they went bankrupt a few years ago and were acquired. Maybe I understand now why they did. Maybe they simply didn’t understand TQS – and all service businesses must master total quality service before they can ever achieve pricing power and above average profits. Failures in service lead to business failures and that is a cost a business can not afford to take.


  1. Sounds like a company firmly entrenched in the “old world”, where people used to write letters on pieces of paper.

    Remember when Netflix changed its pricing in the northern summer of 2011? They received 84,000 hostile comments on their Facebook page in a week.

    – Jon

  2. I’ve experienced one of the situation you’ve went through at a restaurant in Cali. But good to say, the people there are professional enough to handle all customers reactions. “Contact Us” is not only a way for the market to reach your business, it’s also a concrete proof that you and your business really exists. It’s one of the assurances that you provide open communication to the public and therefore ready to hear their feedback about your services. It will establish good relationship and thus getting loyal clients.

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