4 Tips for Providing Customer Service Recovery

I had lunch at FirstWatch today. Every time I eat there, I end up asking myself, "Why don't I eat here more often?" The food is tasty and appears to be healthy. The people are friendly and their service is generally pretty fast. Today was a little different. It took us over five minutes to be acknowledged. Then once we were greeted, we had a wait time of another ten minutes. Something I would have been okay with if there hadn't been five open tables clearly visible. Okay, so maybe they're a little short staffed today.

Two other groups of people came in behind us. No one was acknowledging them, so after awhile, I greeted them, added them to the waiting list, and told them it would be about 10 minutes. They offered to tip me, but I politely declined. When we were being seated, I pointed to the last guy I put on the list and asked him to take over my hosting responsibility. He kindly agreed.

When our waitress took our orders, I asked for a large glass of water. My one consistent complaint with FirstWatch is they serve their water in little shot-glass-sized cups. My larger glass never came. I know, they're a little short staffed today.

There were four of us for lunch. Two meals came first (of course, mine was not one of them). Then a few minutes later the other two came. The food was good as usual. This was the first time I did not ask, "How come I don't eat here more often?"

When I was paying my bill, the cashier asked, "Was everything alright?"

I gave my best Larry David impersonation and responded, "Eh. You guys were a little off your game today."

Without skipping a beat he handed me back my money and said, "Then today is on me."

ME: "It wasn't that bad. I'll pay for my meal."

HIM: "No, sir. If you aren't satisfied, it's on us."

ME: "I appreciated that. But I had a good meal, and this is a fair price for it. Normally, I'm very pleased when I come in here, and today you were clearly understaffed. It wasn't the same experience I normally get, but it won't stop me from coming back. It's fair that I should pay."

He reluctantly took my money and apologized once again for today's worse than usual service. What really impressed me was how responsive he was to my honest evaluation of the experience. Best of all, he gave me a quick reminder lesson in how to recover from less than standard service.


  1. Asked how my experience was and really cared about my answer.
  2. Was empowered to make me happy.
  3. Acted quickly.
  4. Sincerely apologized.

What's the best example of customer service recovery you've experienced?