How to lose clients and kill your reputation

By David French

My spouse and I traveled recently to the British Virgin Islands. After we returned, I wrote TripAdvisor reviews of several restaurants we visited. All the reviews were brief and favorable, except for this one:useful vegetables lie on a plate

We were so looking forward to a wonderful dinner in one of the most spectacular settings on the West End. Food was simply OK for the price, and service was terrible. Entrees arrived +45 minutes after we ordered, and several tables who were seated after us were served and finished before we ever got our food.

And the restaurant owner’s response:

You are on holiday. It’s evening. It’s beautiful weather and a ” spectacular setting. ” Why can’t you spend an hour having dinner? Are you really that important? International calls flowing in requiring your attention? Big deals brewing?

It tells you on the menu that main course preparation time is 40 minutes. The idea is to have a starter and a drink and maybe talk to whoever you are with.

And what is this obsession with other tables being served before you? They may have ordered at the bar before sitting down. They may have ordered food that is quicker to prepare than yours. What difference does it make? Are you in some kind of competition?

You sound like a spoiled brat complaining to teacher.

Next time go to the Chicken Bus. Quick service, make sure no one pushes into the queue before you, bolt the food down out of a styrene dish and get back to your international bond dealing or whatever as soon possible.


Granted, I could and should have provided a bit more detail, such as: We were the first party seated and the last to leave. We were there three hours, and finally got dinner more than two hours after being seated. We attempted to start with a drink and appetizers, only to be told by our server that he had to take both appetizer and entrée orders at the same time. It went downhill from there; the entire service was a shamble.

If you’re unfamiliar with TripAdvisor, it’s important to note that an owner is not obligated to respond to reviews. This wasn’t the first less-than-positive review I’ve written, but it’s the first time I’ve had an owner to respond with such vitriol! They had no interest in learning why we had a bad experience, much less in offering an apology or making amends.

Regardless of the details I omitted, our expectations weren’t met. There’s an inappropriate way to respond as I’ve shared here, and an appropriate way. Both we and clients are human, after all, and capable of missteps. They’re not always right, and we’re not always wrong. But if a client feels at any time that we haven’t met their expectations, we need to hear it. We need to understand their perception of where we fell down on the job, and how we together can address the issue. To think and act otherwise, much less taking it to the level of “…spoiled brat complaining to teacher,” we would ensure that a client becomes a former client, and PDQ!

Thanks for reading. Must go; big international calls requiring my attention and international bond deals to handle.

2 thoughts on “How to lose clients and kill your reputation”

  1. David,

    Your words are right on. While the customer isn’t always right, as a business owner you need to be listening to customers favorable reviews and more importantly the negative ones too. I expect to hear that everything is good when I talk to clients. But what I really want to hear is when we aren’t meeting expectation. Thanks. Well said.

  2. Anyone who’s ever worked in a people-facing role knows how challenging it can be to always see eye-to-eye with clients — especially when you feel like you’re caught in a cycle of endless revisions that never seem to make them happy. You want to make sure your professional opinion is properly asserted, but it’s important to know when to step back defer to your client’s judgment . One of the best ways to establish your expertise and make your client feel comfortable and respected is to know when you don’t have the best answer, and let your client make the final call.

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