By: Tina Marie Summers
Part 2: Customer Service
I use to hate the customer service training sessions we would have. It was so cheesy and it just felt like another thing to slow us down. I’d have to say, though, it was the best thing I could have ever learned. Although you will get those certain people that will just never be happy, or will treat you like you are nothing or expect you to cater to their every move, customer service skills are integral to building raving fans and loyalty.
The Customer is always right…well not always…
In the restaurant industry, when you get a complaint, you fix it, point blank. Oftentimes, you are buying the item as well. The saying went, “We do everything and anything in our power to make them happy before they leave.” Well, in those rare, rare moments, you’ll get a guest/customer/client that is NEVER happy.
One of my old bosses was the king of customer service. It didn’t matter if it was the restaurant’s error or not, we apologized and got them whatever they wanted, and paid oftentimes again, paid for it. However, one evening, my boss did the most surprising thing I’ve ever seen (actually the whole staff was floored).
Story goes like this:
We had these regulars that came in all the time. They liked to name drop (yeah, you we all know someone like that), and came in at least twice a week. They always had something wrong with their order. A manager always had to stop by apologize and fix it. Again, paid for the item. It got to a point where the staff just knew what kind of night it was going to be when they walked in (unfortunate).
Until, one night, the GM flat out told the guest, “I’m sorry, you’ve had a problem every time you’ve come in here for the past three months. I fear that we may not be up to your standards and that we’re just not the right restaurant for you.”
I paraphrased much of the conversation because it was so long ago, but I’ll never forget the line, “…we’re just not the right restaurant for you.”
I learned that day that, it is okay to know you’re worth and cut your losses. As much as you can do to turn an unhappy customer around and may eventually turn them into loyal brand ambassadors, there are people out there that just aren’t a right fit, affect your bottom line negatively and ultimately cause more stress than necessary. AND it’s okay to say no to them.
This isn’t meant for the one-off complaints or customers that are legitimately experiencing consistent issues. If there is always an issue, take a look at your system and make sure execution is smooth and the customer experience is smooth as well.
Be sure to lay out specific expectations and boundaries that are clear to your target customer. Anything outside of that is at your discretion on how to handle it, but ultimately, when you’re your own boss, you can pick who you work with. Isn’t that fun?
Under Promise, Over Deliver
I still make this mistake at times, because I just want to give people EVERYTHING, including my time (that I don’t always have a lot of), but I’ve found that sometimes it is just the little things that matter, that help you get raving fans.
- setting up a table with flowers for an anniversary
- saying happy birthday
- just doing things that aren’t in your job description
For example, I live in a college town and one night I was serving a family that was about to put up their freshman away to school. Throughout the dinner experience, they talked to me about what they were doing for orientation and what troubles they were having. They mentioned they were on a waitlist for housing and that they needed to find something in town.
I had stayed at college apartments and gave them a listing of college apartments that even undergraduate students lived at, so their child will still be around people their age. But I didn’t just stop there, I went to my boss and asked if I could use the computer. We happened to not be too busy at the time and I looked up addresses and phone numbers for them (this was before iPhones and smartphones were everywhere). They were so appreciative.
The point of that was, I didn’t have to do that for them, but it made their visit into a town they didn’t know much less stressful and hopefully helpful. You don’t always have to give away your stuff for free to over deliver. Sometimes, you just need to pay attention to the details and help solve a problem. Show them you’re listening and care.
Address the Problem Immediately
Oh there is nothing worse than a hungry customer who’s meal was wrong. You learn very quickly to figure out what the problem is, acknowledge the guest and fix it asap!
Put yourself in your customers shoes. What was the worst customer service experience you ever had? I bet every one of them, you felt your concerns go unacknowledged. That’s where you lose customers.
I get it, sometimes emails get overwhelming and playing catch up is hard. Be sure to have the right systems in place for you to manage this in a timely manner. Have a dedicated email address for inquiries and customer care. Be sure to check it daily. Have your assistant or family member help (when you’re doing it alone and may not have the funds to outsource yet).
Respond to everyone immediately, whether you have a solution or not, and just let them know you’ll look into it and will get back to them as soon as possible. Then, GET BACK TO THEM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! <— That right there is really where customer service breaks down, the follow up. Create a customer service workflow that works for you and allows you to get back to your raving fans quicker!
What are some customer service tips you’ve learned through your career? Please, add them in the comments, because we’d love to hear from you.
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