Social media let down by poor customer service at Fulham’s Sands End pub

Daily, I read various case studies where the powers of social media and customer service combined fall far short of the superhero status they have the potential to achieve.

As general customer service skills have been around for a good deal longer, I have often been inclined to believe that it is the villainous misuse of social media that acts as the rather dastardly Kryptonite, destroying the combination of, what should be, a harmonious duo.

However, before Christmas, I found myself in a situation that left me awaiting an heroic rescue by Customer Service but, instead, it was Social Media that pulled the Y-fronts over the tights and swooped in to save this consumer in distress.

Having been bounced from unreserved table to unreserved table by a waiter who seemed keen on amateur dramatics at my Fulham local, the Sands End (yet another gastro pub that rides high on its own good opinion of itself, based on reviews written circa 2007/2008), my friend and I were left not a smidge hacked off.

At the final request for us to move, we were perched on a table in the far corner, which actually was reserved for 8.30pm, but being the last table left available, and due to the fact we were planning to leave before then, we had decided to take it. However, at 8.05pm we were asked to move, yet again.

There was nothing polite in the way we were ‘handled’ and so I decided to speak with the manager before leaving.

This was met with smug indifference initially and, less than a minute later, following an attempted discussion, finished with the statement: ‘If you don’t like it, you can leave.’

At this point, I figured nothing was going to get through to the staff in the Sands End, it was a lost cause and so I resolved upon social media to try to make my point, something I have only ever done once before in a situation such as this.

A tweet went out and a rapid response came back from a wide selection of local bloggers and tweeters, all of whom knew the pub well and were interested in what had happened.

In addition, I was contacted by the pub’s PR representative, Claire Strickett of Gerber PR. Now this was quite a thing, an area I am, of course, familiar with. In my mind she handled everything brilliantly; quickly and efficiently listening to my story and getting in touch with the owners, who promptly contacted me.

Enter Customer Service.

The call I received from the owner a day later was interesting to say the least: an apology wrapped up in the disclaimer that he had not yet spoken to his team to hear their side of the story.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but, as a customer, if one has a bad experience, all one wants is a sympathetic ear and a gesture that quickens the healing process.

He then proceeded to tell me that after Christmas, I would hear from him when he had got to the bottom of the situation.

Having heard nothing up until Wednesday of last week, I emailed said owner to find out what his investigations had turned up.

On Sunday, staggeringly, an additional four days later, I received an email and this is what it said:

Apologies for not having responded earlier but I have been away travelling from county to county on an endless family excursion.

I mentioned I would have a chat with Andrew and the other member of staff about the other night’s incidents, which I did before Christmas. As you might expect their account was a variation to your own, aspects of which I have taken into account. However it was generally considered that in the future we look at situations like this from a customers point of view and on reflection both staff members feel that had they handled things differently the outcome would probably have been less contentious. It was a valuable meeting.

Anyway, I can assure you that not only has this gone some way to tightening staff/customer interaction, but also has helped in addressing procedural issues which played a large part in the upset of the evening.

Well, no surprise in the differing accounts part. What I did find incredible, however, was the fact that I was expected to rejoice in the happy occasion that, in a burst of genius, <cue divine light and angelic voices> the team decided, in a meeting, to ‘look at situations like this from a customer’s point of view’,  suggesting that this wasn’t how they operated prior to the events in question.

The fact my friend and I had been inconvenienced in order that these changes might take place without any offer of even the smallest gesture of compensation, such as furnishing us with a drink, for example, instead leaving us with the rewarding notion that we ‘helped in addressing procedural issues’, is merely the equivalent of providing us with a complementary sour taste in our mouths.

So, we have an epic customer service FAIL here, split into two parts, but I am determined that social media will have its final swipe at victory in this battle, which is why I have chosen to write this blog post.

The funny this is, that I had intended to write a post regardless but I was waiting to see what the final outcome might be as I had hoped to provide an account where both customer service and social media worked together to positive effect. Quel dommage.

If you are ever in need of a drink when in the heart of Fulham, I would recommend the Hurlingham on the Wandsworth Bridge Road or the Rose on Harwood Terrace as rather good drinking holes.

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6 Responses to Social media let down by poor customer service at Fulham’s Sands End pub

  1. I pity the folks at the Sands end, although it doesn’t surprise me when pubs get a bit too big for their boots. Strangely, I never had that problem at the Harwood Arms when they got a Michelin Star?

    • Peter Hay says:

      Thanks for commenting, Ben, totally agree.

      It is a rather frustrating thing when any individual or organisation forgets how they came upon their success as well. It’s often the people around them, who support and encourage, that put them where they are so, in this case, a lack of customer focus is really rather unforgivable.

  2. Excellently put. Well done sir.

  3. Excellent blog – and well done for writing it. I’ve lost count of then number of times I’ve been hacked off with a place and then lost the will to write anything. You should print out the blog, comments and then mail it to the pub. I for one will avoid this place.

    • Peter Hay says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Ross!

      The Sands End and it’s PR agency are aware of the post but, oddly, have chosen not to respond.

      Strange way to handle the pub’s communications by Gerber PR, especially when the agency demonstrated such a promising start, as outlined in the post.

  4. “Online customer support will indeed very soon become a ‘table stake’. Thus to distinguish oneself from competition, one should take the quality of the customer service to a higher level.

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