Food Poisoning...You Won't Believe Where We Got It

Food poisoning.  Ever had it?  Not a fun experience. Definitely leaves a "bad taste" in your mouth.

My father-in-law came to visit us last year.  We took him to a local diner for lunch.  A few hours later he became violently ill...a victim of some expired chicken.  He ended up in the hospital and it took him a week to get over the bad food he had eaten.

A few weeks ago, our family was at a place where you would never have worry about food poisoning.  Or so we thought.

Where did it happen?

Disney's Animal Kingdom.  My wife had some cole slaw that was contaminated.  She spent the rest of the night very, very sick.  We had to cut the trip short and head home.

I was surprised she got food poisoning at the "Happiest Place on Earth."  Disney is known for their quality and commitment to excellence.  But they are not perfect.  Just as no one else is.  But what I was looking at was how they would handle it?

When my wife called to let them know about the food poisoning, I was really curious about how they would respond.

Would they get defensive?

Would they deny it?

Would they register the error and thank her for letting them know?

I was not disappointed.  They responded with empathy and understanding.  And they offered to give us comp tickets to come back another day with free entrance.  As usual, they showed excellence in customer care.

Here's the lesson in this.  No organization is perfect.  Even the best organizations, including Disney, makes mistakes.  But what sets some organizations apart from the rest is how they respond and follow up with people after the mistake.

Here's some practical steps to show what this looks like.
  • listen to the person's complaint, really listen to understand
  • don't get defensive
  • display empathy, put yourself in the person's shoes
  • comp them
  • follow up with them to make sure you meet their expectations
Here's an example of this.

A family came to our church.  They had a preschooler and checked him into one of our preschool rooms.  When they came back after church to pick up their child, he was not in the room they had dropped him off in.  They freaked out, thinking someone else had gotten their child.  We looked in the next preschool room and he was in there.

Here's what happened.  We held preschool chapel in a room down the hallway.  So when it was time for chapel, we walked the preschoolers to the chapel area and then after chapel we walked them back to their classroom.

The mistake we made that day was not checking rolls before leaving the park.  Because we missed this step, the preschooler we are talking about, got mixed in with another classroom and returned with them to the wrong classroom.

I could tell this ordeal (which was our fault) had really bothered the parents.  And rightly so.  I knew I needed to compensate them, so that week I sent them a handwritten apology with a gift certificate to the church bookstore.  They were appreciative and we were able to keep them coming to church.

You might be saying "My ministry can't afford to comp people we make a mistake with."  I would encourage you to look ahead.  You may lose a small investment by buying the comp gift, but look what it enables you to do.  You are able to keep the family coming to church and their tithe money will reimburse you for the money you spend on comping them many times over.

Keep in mind as well, that people talk.  They will tell other families when they have a bad experience at your church.  But the flipside is true as well, if you comp them, they will go on to share with people how you showed care for them and comped them.  The incident can actually give your ministry positive promo as the word spreads among people about how you responded.

Food poisoning.  There is no good place for it to happen.  But if I had to pick a place, it would be at one of Disney's theme parks.

Feel free to share your thoughts and insights in the comment section below.  You may also have a comp story from Disney or another organization.  We'd love to have you share what happened and how the compt left you feeling.