A couple of nights ago I stopped at fast food restaurant I frequent when I travel. While I waited for my order, the manager handed me a menu, highlighted the number of his particular restaurant and told me that next time I should call first and then my order would be ready when I walked in the door. A nice touch, I thought.

So, being the "rut eater" that I am, the next night I pulled out the menu, grabbed my rental car keys and headed for my car. As I got in my car, I dialed the number.

"Can you please hold a moment," the voice responded.

"Sure," I replied.

I heard the employee put the phone down, and well…he never picked it back up. For the next 10 minutes or so, I heard the sounds of the restuarant. I tried getting his attention; but to no avail. I also though about hanging up, but with each passing second I grew a bit more incredulous that this guy had simply forgotten the phone was "live" and that I was waiting.

I reached the restaruant. Still no answer. I was peeved, but trying not to act like it–for fear that I would come across like a spoiled American who can’t handle insignificant disruptions. when I finally reached the counter, I looked at the "shift leader"–let’s call him Dan.

" Dan," I said, "I’ve been on hold for at least 10 minutes."

At that point, he stopped me and didn’t let me get one more word out.

"I’m sorry, that was me, and I’m sorry."

A flash went across my mind. This guy is taking responsibility for this. He didn’t have to do that. He’s admitting it was he who made the mistake. My good feelings toward this restuarant and Dan were growing.

And then, like a record needle scratching across the vinyl, my love fest with Dan evaporated with his next words.

"I got busy and didn’t get back to you. Can I take your order."

I thought to myself, you got busy?

To be honest, and maybe this is the selfish American in me, I didn’t care that Dan was busy. Everyone’s busy Dan, get in line, I thought. Further, to suggest to me that he was busy negated the fact that I was part of his busy, or should have been. I’m a customer, just as much as the woman standing in front of you Dan; and you’re telling me you couldn’t get to me becasue you were busy?

Now before you think I’m just an insensitive and impatient soul who can’t wait for things, let me clarify.

I don’t have a problem that Dan was busy, really.

I don’t have a problem that Dan forgot me, really.

I’ve done similar and worse in my own world.

Here’s my problem: Dan made an excuse, when he could have made a fan.

In fact, customer service problmes (or failures) are uniquely suited to give you the opportunity to make your unhappy customer your biggest fan.

How do you do that?

Stay tuned….