Listening to a chef talk about his gastro pub on local radio recently reminded me that the ‘front of house’ (aka customer service) does not just relate to the hospitality sector but all businesses.
A restaurant can only survive for a short period of time on providing great food alone if the service and welcome guests receive is poor. It won’t be long before bookings are low and they’ll wonder why they’re the only pub in the area whose footfall is down and guests only eat with them once.
Show you care
Restaurants like other businesses need referrals and repeat visits to grow. The frustrating thing (for me) is that it doesn’t cost anything or is particularly hard to provide great customer service and be welcoming – take an interest in your clients and be helpful! Why not ‘go the extra mile’ every time? If someone asks for something that’s not on the ‘menu’ but you can do it (or introduce them to someone who can) then provide it! Be flexible and thoughtful.
Make them feel important, they are, or should be to you! It’s not just that person but everyone they know. Word of mouth is very powerful, how often do you see posts on Facebook groups asking, “Can you please recommend…..?”
Five ingredients for top notch service
- Act on feedback. Following a visit to a restaurant with my family I completed a feedback card left on the table. There were specific areas that could be improved and I wanted to support them so made some suggestions. I gave my email and waited. Nothing. Then after a few months I received a newsletter telling me about forthcoming events. I was disappointed they were happy to take my details of the feedback card but did not send me a simple email thanking me for my comments and encouraging me to return or recommend them. Needless to say I have not returned.
- Team. It’s a team effort, not just those who are client facing – the waiter, receptionist, sales manager, everyone represents your business and should be clear on your values and how you expect customers to be treated.
- It works both ways. Customer service is not just for external clients but within the business/organisation there are departments that provide a service. Reliability, flexibility and the drive to support others in the wider ‘team’ meet their goals, commitments and deadlines will make you known as the ‘go to’ person.
- Turn a negative into a positive. So we’ve all experienced poor customer service e.g. problems with deliveries, faulty products, out of stock items, slow service, uncooked or cold food. It’s how you deal with these situations that’s important and can turn the customer into a loyal one who will go on to recommend you. Let me tell you a short story, I bought a set of two metallic pens from a large craft store, when I got home I discovered they were faulty so didn’t write correctly. The store isn’t close by or easy to get to, so I called customer service and was so happy to hear they could sort it out for me without having to physically visit the store. I received a replacement in the post quickly but that was faulty too! We agreed it was best to try a different make – perfect! Yes, I had to email a receipt and send a photo but I was happy to do that but I didn’t want the hassle of posting the item or returning it to store. I came away with a positive feeling and felt valued, what started as a negative experience turned into a positive one. I have since returned to the store and taken a loyalty card. Had I had a different experience I definitely wouldn’t have done the latter.
- Communication internally is key. Ensure staff are kept informed of the business plans, special promotions and how you expect customers to be treated. Make sure they know what’s on the menu and the ingredients that go into every ‘dish’ or package!
They may not be customers now but they or someone they know could be, so treat everyone with grace and good humour. A smile can go a long way, even over the phone!
If you’d like your customers to feel more valued then please contact me.