Exceptional customer service means something different to every business. The overall goal is to create a memorable experience for the customer. A key indicator in accomplishing this goal is to establish a customer-service culture.
For a restaurant, the recipe calls for a great meal, including quality prepared food and beverage items, and service employees that are both competent and friendly. It is when a guest, which is the term the hospitality industry uses rather than customers, does not have to ask for anything. Beverages are refilled, extra napkins appear and the order comes out to precisely meet the guest’s expectations. In a retail store, patrons should be acknowledged and assisted to the level of their liking, which is different for everyone.
When I am shopping, I really appreciate being greeted authentically, and having the sales person be a presence if and when I need assistance.
The following are steps supervisors should take to ensure exceptional service at their place of business:
Great customer service begins with an exceptional training program. Too many employers skip or limit this step in order to reduce labor expenses or by not properly planning. Training your employees will ensure standards are in place and each employee will have a clear idea of what is expected from them.
One of the parts of training, is the job itself. Employees must understand their job description, performance standards and have knowledge of the products and the services the business provides. An additional part of the training, which is often ignored, is performance behavior standards. How well your employees are communicating with your customers is imperative to the viability of your business.
When planning and organizing your training program, you may want to ask yourself some questions:
• What type of non-verbal communication should employees use with the customers? What is their body language? It all starts with a smile. A smile is a great first impression and communicates to the customer that the employee is approachable. This is an important factor because you want your customers to feel welcomed, appreciated and comfortable when asking questions or requesting something. If the opportunity is lost, you cannot get it back.
• Are your employees friendly, respectful, and kind to your customers? Employee traits such as these help build customer relationships that, in the end, create customer loyalty.
• Do your employees have good manners? Frequently, you hear employees referring to customers as dude, sweetie or “hun.” These terms can be highly offensive to customers. It shows no respect for who they are. Learning the first names of your guests creates customer loyalty.
• Are your employees seeking ways to enhance the customer’s experience at your business? Employees should be trained to look for ways to offer assistance such as listening to customer’s needs and answering their questions. It is also a good idea to remind employees to keep their side conversations professional. A visiting guest does not want to overhear a conversation between employees about personal topics such as their relationship status or weekend plans.
Observe and Monitor
Supervisors need to schedule time on a regular basis to observe employees and ensure performance standards are being executed. One common way to implement this practice is “Management By Walking Around” (MBWA). When utilizing this practice, the supervisor performs three roles; listening to team members and customers, coaching team members and troubleshooting to resolve issues. If the employee does not carry out the standards, corrective action should take place immediately. Employees need to know that the standards are important to you. A supervisor spending more time in the office will be assured that employees may be “running” their business into the ground.
Feedback is the final step and should be offered after the employee observation. Supervisors often make the mistake of only giving feedback when it is time for performance evaluations. When employees meet and exceed the standards during observations, positive reinforcement and rewards should be immediate.
If customer service is lacking, customers will most likely not return to the business in the near future. Some businesses may receive a second chance from some customers, but it sometimes takes months or years for a re-visit. Can your business afford to lose customers for a month or a year? Developing and implementing a successful customer service-training program will provide the business a competitive advantage and builds a customer service culture.
Sam La Duca is a Restaurant Management Instructor at the COCC Cascade Culinary Institute.