I heard a long time ago that if a customer has a great experience they’ll share it with one person. If they have a bad experience, they’ll share it with ten. Now, multiply that by Facebook and Twitter.

On Sunday night, the Sports Dude and I took the kids, along with another mom and kid, to dinner at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the only Bob’s Big Boys in Los Angeles are way out in the Valley and we’re rarely out there, so when we are, it’s a special treat for the kids. They even get dessert!

We expected a wait for a table, but from the moment we walked in to be sat, the service went from bad (hostess sat a party of four at the table for six we were supposed to get) to atrocious (waitress completely abandoned our table after she took our order; food took way too long to come out of the kitchen; orders were either wrong or missing; and almost everything was cold).

We asked for the MOD (restaurant speak for manager on duty).

I guess she wasn’t too concerned about the dinner rush, as she was sitting at a table enjoying her own meal.

Some lame excuses were made. An extra helping of mashed potatoes was brought out (after I was done eating my dinner). My younger daughter’s cheeseburger (which, for some reason, they kept sending out sans cheese) finally arrived after everyone else was done eating.

And then our waitress brought the bill, sheepishly apologizing:

I’m embarrassed to have to give you this bill, but …

And that’s when we cut her off. I just looked at her and said, “If you don’t bring this bill back comped, bring me the phone number for your corporate offices.”

While all of this was going on, we were debating and discussing with the kids: “When there is bad customer service, who is to blame?”

I’ll tell you one thing, I cannot remember what the waitress’ name is, but I know the brand of where we ate.

The MOD didn’t leave her name, but I know the name of the restaurant.

The service we received, and the lack of immediate restitution and resolution, might reflect poorly on the employees, but it tarnishes the brand. And it is the brand that will receive the lasting harm.

Several things could have been done quickly to appease us. Then the “blame” would have been isolated to the server. But that didn’t happen. The brand didn’t step up to the plate (haha, no pun intended).

The exact same thing can be said for lawyers and law firms.

When a lawyer is non-responsive to a client, disappoints or doesn’t meet expectations, it starts off as an isolated incident between the client and the attorney.

However, if the situation is not resolved, to the satisfaction of the client, then it can, and does, spill over to the brand (the law firm).

It is at this time that the client team or practice group leader, or the firm’s managing partner, need to be brought in.

I know that the offending attorney will bristle at this, but, really, at this stage the client is no longer into you … let the firm see if they can save the overall relationship.

But it never has to get to this point. Through proper client response and feedback you can monitor your client relationships.

If you, as the billing attorney, sense something is wrong, act on it. If there is a problem, solve it to the satisfaction of the client.

If you do identify a problem, here’s an easy question you can ask your client: “What can I do to make this right.” And then do it.

But, if you refuse to acknowledge the problem, you will slowly start to see cases you “should” be getting headed for your competitors. At this time, it is imperative for your managing partner to hop on a plane and take the client to lunch.

Unresolved conflicts with clients will not go away if you don’t deal with them. The client might not pick up the phone and fire you, but they’ll slowly and quietly shift their business elsewhere.

As for us?

  • The MOD never approached our table again, but the bill did got comped.
  • As a former waitress, I am horrified and still shocked by the fact that I did not leave a tip. I really couldn’t in good conscience.
  • The next time we’re stuck in the far-reaches of the San Fernando Valley, we will not be planning our dinner around a Big-Boy Combo and milkshakes.  We’ll just shift our business elsewhere, and let all our friends know it.
  • Oh, and I’m posting this to the Bob’s Big Boy Facebook page. We’ll see if they notice.