Don’t Drop the Picnic Basket on Customer Service

My wife and daughter and I attended a fall event last year at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago, sponsored by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was a nice event, they had counselors and representatives from the School of the Art Institute talk about their college program. It was a beautiful fall day, and as the admissions director spoke, I’d sometimes take a break by looking outside through the large glass windows and consume the bright fall foliage.

Picnic Basket 006aDuring the break, my wife and I met the caterer at the event — complimenting her on the beautiful display, tasty salads and sandwiches.  The caterer said she was from the Picnic Basket restaurant in Libertyville, IL. We chatted and one thing led to another and my wife and I had said we’re in the market for a caterer for my wife’s holiday party in two months and if this spread and flavor was any indication on the type of service they provide, let’s talk.

Two months later, my wife hired the Picnic Basket for her holiday party. About 30 minutes before the party began, the food arrived. Needless to say, it looked pretty good except it didn’t look like enough. Apparently some of the shrimp and sandwiches were missing. My wife asked the deliverer about the rest of the food and he said, “That’s it.” as he walked out the door.

As exasperation began to cover her face, she quickly gained her composure as her clients began to arrive. Time to greet her clients and ensure they have a pleasant time. Her attention was certainly not on running out of food. Besides, she had a contingency plan as she called me to stop by Costco to shore up the food supply. With my long strides, I briskly swung by the deli area and found some shrimp platters and turkey sandwiches. Your clients may have several takeaways from your holiday party, however, running out of food should never be one of them.

In the meantime, the original delivery person “just showed up again” and dropped off a small plate of cookies and said he was going to get the shrimp platter to complete the order. Again, my wife was befuddled and just smiled and quickly called me to cancel the order. Being only 10 minutes away, it was too late to return the Costco food — we’ll just make the best of things and donate any extras to a local food pantry.

First impressions can be lasting — this was her first business interaction with Picnic Basket. They didn’t call my wife after the party to understand where the mix up occurred or the lack of communication between their kitchen and the delivery person. Which means they didn’t know that someone made a special trip to Costco and spent $85 for additional food.

In addition, they didn’t call my wife, as a new customer — she may have provided valuable input on the service and experience. If you don’t get a candid picture from your employees, sometimes reaching out to customers, especially newer ones can help improve your service to customers. My wife is now learning away from them and regardless, how many of her clients will she tell this story to.

Sometimes it’s not the businesses’ mistake that’s a deal breaker, rather, it’s how the company deals with the mistake that says a lot about the business.

Picnic Basket Feb 15 007About one month later, someone from the Picnic Basket stopped by her office and said they had some chocolate samples for her to try. As she’s sampling the goodies, she explained to the man she had just hired them (Picnic Basket) and her experience would not qualify for any customer service awards. To complicate another interaction, his English wasn’t good and he didn’t quite grasp her feedback. He was nice enough, just shrugged his shoulders which pretty much summed up her experience with the Picnic Basket. Again, another missed opportunity.

You can make the best ham or turkey sandwiches in the world on amazing buns with amazing mustard, however, if your business doesn’t engage in solid customer service, how quickly will your business grow?

On a scale of 1-10, their food was probably a 7, their customer centric approach was not acceptable. We catered our holiday party to avoid stress and last minute hassles, not add to it. Perhaps our experience was the exception? Who knows, but it’s too bad that our initial interaction with the Picnic Basket wasn’t positive. The last question is whether that sour taste in our mouth will dissuade us to bypass the Picnic Basket and reach out to another caterer for this year’s party?