Can Customer Service Be Too Good? The Swiss Chalet Story

by Mike Holman

One of the oldest mantras of customer service is that the customer is always right.  I doubt very many companies actually follow that idea since it clearly can’t always be true.  And even if it is true then the company still has an obligation to the shareholders to maximize profits even if it means losing some clients.

A few months we ordered take out dinner from Swiss Chalet which is a very yummy Canadian chicken place.  My wife ordered a family pack which is a whole chicken, 4 fries and some buns.  Because it was near the holidays they had a special where they include stuffing and cranberry sauce for another couple of bucks.  My wife is a big fan of stuffing so she got the holiday special.

We picked up the dinner and everything was great except they forgot to include the stuffing!  I didn’t care but my wife did.  I suggested that she phone and complain – perhaps they would give us 10% off next time.  She entered a complaint online and surprisingly enough someone called the next day and said that we could get another holiday family pack for free!  I was quite surprised since I didn’t think the omission of some stuffing was worth it for them to give us a $28 dinner for free.

As I expected we had the usual problems claiming “the prize” since the outlet we went to had no idea about this freebie we were supposed to get.  Eventually we got it sorted out and had another great meal.

Personally I thought this was overkill.  They could have just given us 25% off and that would have been good enough.  I’m not complaining of course, but I think if you are going to run a business then you shouldn’t give too much away.

Tim Hortons (another Canadian institution) was in the news this week when they literally banned a customer who kept returning coffees because they were bad.  From the description in the article it sounds like they were very patient with the guy but eventually they just decided to cut rope and move on.  This makes a lot of sense to me and the only part of this story that is hard to understand is why the guy (who was banned) is complaining about it.  Tim Hortons is really just preventing him from buying more coffee which is something that he should have done himself.  Ie if you don’t like the product, then don’t buy it.

Maybe “the customer is always right” should be changed to “the profitable customer is always right (most of the time)”.

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