Customer Value and Customer Service – It depends whom you ask

customer experience, customer service, Marketing, vouchers

Restaurants issue vouchers to attract more custom. For Cafe Rouge, a restaurant chain of some popularity with families in the UK, these Vouchers are offered by Tesco, by the chain itself, and by websites like Vouchercodes. I picked up a voucher from Vouchercode to head for a Cafe Rouge restaurant in Central London on a Sunday. Here is the Voucher:

Cafe-rouge voucher

The voucher clearly states, valid 7 days a week, one kid’s main free with every adult’s meal. We went as a couple with two kids, expecting some noticeable discount on our bill that mounted up to something like £44. Like most insurance policies most vouchers also come with a catch. Although this voucher clearly states “valid 7 days a week” the catch is mentioned in point 10 of the terms and conditions:

Cafe Rouge Terms

The terms and conditions list a number of restaurants that are exempt from accepting our voucher. Unfortunately, we did not read the small print and fell into the trap. When asking for the bill we obviously were not aware of the special status of our restaurant and mentioned to the restaurant’s waitress and then the manager that we had expected to be able to use the voucher when two explanations were given for them not accepting it.

1. It’s your own fault

When presenting the voucher to the waitress she said that this restaurant was exempt from accepting the voucher which was stated in the terms and conditions that we should have read before ordering. Many other restaurants of the same chain still accepted vouchers and next time maybe we should pick one of those.

As customers we were not really happy to be blamed, yet having seen the small print now we are obviously aware that we better had spent some more time reading the small print.

2. It’s the company’s management fault

Because we were not ready to accept the waitress’ explanation we asked her if the manager of the restaurant was around. She called the manager over who was a very polite young lady who showed her understanding and relieved us from the blame her staff had put on us. She explained the reason for the voucher policy with the company’s management having changed ownership recently and that basically the new management was to blame for having introduced a new policy on vouchers. Since recently certain restaurant’s were exempt from the acceptance of vouchers. She said that she regularly was confronted by customers finding themselves in the very same situation we were in now; their vouchers were invalid and they had to pay the full bill. There was nothing she could do about that.

Obviously looking at the terms and conditions, the waitress and restaurant manager are in the right. We were in the wrong and should have done our research properly before entering the venue and ordering our food. Yet, we as other customers just want to go for a meal without having to check the terms and conditions of the visit. One would imagine that restaurants like Cafe Rouge have an interest in their customers leaving happy and satisfied, and maybe think about returning.

There was a time when managers of companies argued that the ‘the customer is always right’ and that customers should not feel deceived or misled with the product or service they receive for their money. The distribution of vouchers that requires customers to read the small print that might inform them about exemptions of the vouchers’ validity does not seem to be a marketing activity devised in this spirit.

One thought on “Customer Value and Customer Service – It depends whom you ask

  1. The manager did not have to accept your voucher – but she certainly had the discretion to give you a discount. And that is exactly what I would have done, if I was the manager. You would have left feeling very grateful for her action and, most likely, determined to get back (and recommend the restaurant to your connections, particularly those with children).

    I think it is more than being right or not. It is about having a long term view of the customer’s worth.

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