Sunday morning, as I opened my computer for my PostSecret ritual, I read an email with the subject line that read, “Rather Unimpressed.” Dread washed over me immediately, because I had a feeling this complaint was going to be accurate, which it was. It began with this paragraph,

 

After hearing about your establishment from several people, I was very excited to stop in and give you a try. To say that I left there unimpressed would be an understatement.

 

To cut to the chase, the customer received poorly prepared food, and had every right to be upset at what had been set in front of him. I built my reputation on the opposite of this man’s experience, which explains why these kinds of comments are so valuable when received.

If you take the time to let me know when something is wrong, it tells me something about you. It says your experience matters. Even if you never plan to come back, the fact that you took the time to tell me what you thought about my food and service is helpful for me to see that this kind of incident never happens again.

I tell my staff often, “Remember where you work.” Our name has become synonymous with good, hand prepared, locally sourced food, and you trust me and my team to provide that every single time you walk in my doors. The man started off by saying he was looking forward to giving us a try. We let him down, and we have no other opportunity to give a first impression.

You may be thinking, “Its only one comment. Get over it.”But you don’t realize that I didn’t build my reputation on “get over it.” I don’t cook to “get over it.”I’m in business to genuinely and authentically make you happy, and this response lets me know that I failed at my mission. No, I will not get over it.

Last week, a faithful customer sheepishly told me about how his breakfast was delivered with overcooked and undercooked eggs. He had brought in a friend as a first time guest, and had talked about how much he enjoyed our place, so when his experience was not commensurate with his previous description, he was a little embarrassed. Not only did we fail a new guest, we let down a diehard fan.

Comments like these are so hard to swallow, also if placed on the Foodpanda website. They aggravate my control gene and give me a reactive itch to set up a cot into the back of the kitchen and live there, lording over every single detail to ensure it won’t happen again. But once my wife talks me down from the ledge, I regain composure and accept that there is a better way to avoid these kinds of incidents.

When the customer is absolutely right