A visit to a much-talked-about restaurant this weekend provided a very helpful analogy for The Social Enterprise I thought was worth sharing.  It hammered home that maxim that listening is half the battle won when it comes to delighting your customers.  The challenge is being able to hear them.

A second attempt to lunch at a busy, much-hyped inner-city Italian Restaurant quickly turned to frustration when our attempts first to be seated, and then to be served, were met with what seemed to be apparent blindness.  “Can they even see us?” we thought, “are we invisible.”  After eventually being seated after perhaps 30 minutes of waiting, we then seemed entirely blanked by waiters.  After a while, we could take no more and complained.  Hunger can all too often lead to crankiness!

Immediately we were met with an offensive of charm.  An extra – and quite delightful – starter, rapid attention and a level of courtesy and contrition that very quickly brought us back on board.  We were turned from “we are never coming here again” to “we must come back again”…and fast.

Everything changed when we spoke directly to the concierge.  Once they were able to understand our dissatisfaction, they were able to act quickly to assuage us.  Directions were quickly sent to the kitchen and the waiting staff and within minutes and with very little effort we were not only placated but totally won over.

But until they heard from us, they were none-the-wiser and powerless to act. 

This whole situation made me think of what The Social Enterprise promises organisations: the ability to listen.  Imagine if the restaurant staff had been able to sense our unhappiness by over-hearing our conversation.  A pre-emptive strike on our dissatisfaction would have been so much smoother and impressive.

Monitoring social media to identify customer dissatisfaction and turn it around through proactive engagement is a powerful tool.  Amid the effective charm offensive, the restaurant staff were also able to explain how they had been hit at once by a perfect storm of a sudden rush of customers as well as a massive disaster in the kitchen.  Context always makes things easier to understand and be tolerant of.   Social media engagement provides companies the opportunity to communicate context around any possible problems in customer service or product performance.  But only if they can sense the dissatisfaction in the first place.

Direct communication with customers – and building a personalized profile of someone to understand their likes/dislikes – is key to a long-lasting and profitable relationship.  This is borne out by a report by Bain & Company which establishes that customers who are engaged on social media spend between 20 and 40 per cent more. 


Its a well-known fact that for every person who complains, 26 do not - but you lose their business too.  So the opportunity is not only to turn around the vocally disatisfied, but to retain all the rest.  Who can afford to ignore all that business?