Roast Chicken Revival: A Customer Service Parable
Delicious, simple, quick. Well, okay, maybe not so much that last one.
Even cooks don't always want to cook. I'm not talking about those days where you really want to go out to eat. I'm talking about those "got home late, nothing in the cabinets, dog tired, just want to eat something that doesn't suck" kind of days. I had one of those recently.
My parents had asked me to go over to their house to hang out with my grandparents for the night, so that my folks could attend a lecture. I agreed, then promptly forgot about it. I remembered at around 4:30 that afternoon, with no plan for dinner. I knew I wouldn't make it over to my folks' house until fairly late. Racking my brain for something quick and not terrible to pick up for dinner, I remembered noticing some Revival Market tweets, promising phone-ahead chicken roasting. That sounded like just the ticket, so I called the shop and ordered a couple of birds ($12.95 each) from co-owner Morgan Weber, planning to pick them up about an hour later.
I left work with plenty of time to make it across town to Revival, and wound up getting there about 15 minutes early. I told the guy at the counter my name, what I was there for, and that I might be a bit early, and that I understood if the birds weren't quite ready yet. As he went to check on dinner, I walked around the small space, selecting a couple of loaves of bread to accompany the chickens, and eying some Fluff Bake Bar macarons for dessert.
As I was lingering around the dessert case, Morgan called questioningly from behind the coffee bar, "Are you Nick?" Turning, I nodded my assent and walked over. Morgan introduced himself and, apologizing profusely, explained that they'd had oven problems, and my chickens would be running a bit behind. He offered me a coffee while I waited, refusing payment. I had a cortado. It was delicious.
About 45 minutes later, 30 minutes after I'd been told to expect them, my birds came out of the oven and were boxed loosely (to prevent steam from ruining the crisp skin). Throughout my wait, Morgan and several other employees kept me updated on the birds' progress, asking if I needed anything else. When they finally rang me up, they threw in a bag of baked beans for the trouble, and heavily discounted my entire purchase. I'd like to say I got special treatment because of my considerable fame in the Houston food scene, but (clearly) that's a lie. It was just good customer service.
I ruminated on this as I drove home with my prizes, the tantalizing aroma of chicken fat, lemon, and rosemary making me suddenly aware of my growing hunger. When I got home, my wife was irritated about the delay, but when I explained the extenuating circumstances, and Revival Market's response to them, she softened considerably.
When we finally reached my parents' house and I began carving the birds (skin still crispy!), she softened even more; I gave her the prized "chicken oyster," the crispy and fatty triangle of flesh proving the birds worth the wait. The meat was succulent and deeply flavored, with notes of citrus and herbs playing an appropriately supporting role to the deep chickenness infused in every bite.
By the time we polished off the last of the macarons (Mexican chocolate), their perfect texture crunching slightly before seeming to vanish into an air of chocolate essence, any trace of irritation had similarly dissolved. Instead, we were left sated and happy, with plans for chicken soup made from what remained of the birds.
While the freebies were a nice touch, they weren't necessarily what stuck with me. In my eyes, the keys to good customer service are honesty and concern, both of which were manifest in this experience. As soon as practical, they informed me of the issue, and were forthright about what it would take to fix it; they kept me updated throughout the resolution process; they showed clear consideration for the inconvenience I had been caused, and took more than reasonable steps to be accommodating.
Most people think that problems are only that. For me, this is a re-validation of what I've taken as mantra during my many years in customer service. Issues are not a bad thing, as long as you use them to give your customers a reason to come back. A little consideration is usually all it takes. I suppose a few free macarons don't hurt, though.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.