The demand to create innovation both in products and service continues to grow. It is a never-ending competition of “What can I best provide my customers?”.

Many businesses do succeed in offering the latest and fanciest innovation to wow people. Maybe your business is one of those successful ones! However, having a highly skilled team and excellent product quality are not guarantees that your customers will continue to come, or stay.

If you are having this problem, how do you resolve it?

We all know how valuable customers are in our businesses. However, in my 15 years of work as a chef, I realised that the continued success of your business depends on how you define customer service. And this largely happens beyond the kitchen.

If your definition of “customer service” begins and ends with providing excellent product/service then there is where the problem lies.

Customer Service is what you provide BEFORE or AFTER they purchase your product/service.

The focus is not your product or service… It’s about your customers.

A survey from Gartner states that “89% of companies now expect to compete mostly based on customer experience.” Although this survey was dated 2014, I believe that it is applicable in the times that we are in now.

Therefore if you want to be competitive in this industry, here are what I consider the 3 main areas you should focus on after you have acquired a skilled team and high-quality products. Although these points focus more on your frontliners, this is worth sharing.

1. CREATE GENUINE AND AUTHENTIC CONNECTION WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do, and whom you serve. Moreover, genuine connections are the direct result of being real.

Not everyone is gifted in people relations. Most people fear doing this or some may be merely shy and introverted. That is why hiring people with the right traits needed for your business is essential from the get-go. However, even so, the best thing is that we can all be trained to display enthusiasm when dealing with customers. The question is how you effectively show that enthusiasm and if it comes across as a chore or fake.

However, before you worry whether your approach is genuine or fake, you have to make the move to connect first and foremost.

  • Be professional and familiar with your customers. Get to know them by name. It creates a significant impact when it comes to building trust and relationships.  Research shows that the experience is more memorable, and customers feel valued when they hear their names being called.

That is a good start, but you have to take it a notch higher.

Genuine connections are when people can relate to you or your business. Service tips of most restaurant servers are often higher when they shared a joke with customers.

  • Show appreciation to your customers. For frequent customers, consider these people as VIP’s and create a customer loyalty program exclusively for them to make them feel valued. If customers give valuable feedback and you’ve implemented them with returns of success,  reward them by giving them credit (a shout out in social media and your website) or a gift certificate.

Here’s an idea for your loyalty reward program. You can offer free cooking and tasting classes to your most avid patrons. As it happens, Anytime Chefs is now offering authentic Italian pizza preparation and cooking classes.  Give us a call to get more details – Anytime Chefs.

When customers feel the sincerity and real interest in their satisfaction, they are less likely to be critical of petty mistakes and will consider those mistakes as they are – honest mistakes or accidents. They are more likely to be forgiving because they know that you desire their satisfaction.

I have to express, though, that gaining your customers’ trust is not an excuse to be lax in your service. It should be an even stronger motivation to provide exemplary service to those who have remained loyal and those who continue to appreciate your business.

2. LISTEN AND EXPRESS EMPATHY

Complaints are easier to handle if you can establish the above mentioned number 1 point, which is about genuine connection. However, for first-time customers, it is not so.

To understand how a customer experiences your product or service, you need not just to hear but to truly listen to them.

It is through listening that you discover insights on how things are for them. Did they think that the meat was too rare when they ordered for a medium rare steak? Did they feel that they waited too long for someone to take their order?

When you listen, please take note of what they are focusing on and not on the emotions that come along with it. Remember, in our hospitality industry, we eat complaints for breakfast daily. Therefore, your staff should be level headed enough to handle comments.

Please take this as an opportunity to provide customers with better service in a different form. How about offering a dessert afterwards, or a discount on their next visit?

Respond to their concerns with patience and understanding. Never make them feel as if their issue is burdensome or stupid. Ideally, your staff should be trained to handle such situations but whether a complaint is something that they are trained to handle or not, they should let your customers know that they are there to help solve the problem.

Use complaints and feedbacks to improve your service. If a customer is hoping for a dish with a specific recipe, take note of that. If it becomes a recurring request, consider including that in a feature menu or train your staff to reply firmly and politely that you do not provide such item or service.

3. EMPOWER YOUR EMPLOYEES 

A survey by Accenture found that 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives.

This often results when the staff has to wait for someone to make the official decision and action in response to the complaint.

I appreciate how Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company President and COO Herve Humler empowers his employees to create quick decisions. Even hourly employees have permission to spend up to $2,000 per guest to solve any problem or dissatisfaction that may arise, “without needing to ask permission, without needing to involve management or worry that they’re going too far”.

This results in staff being able to provide an immediate solution to customer’s issues while at the same time receives the credit for doing so.

RELATED READ: MORE ON EMPOWERED EMPLOYEES

There is no clear cut practice that applies to every business. That is why it is crucial that as the business owner, you are also informed of the methods of successful companies so you can create a system that is personalised to your own.

Ensure that your business has a customer strategy and that all of your employees are familiar with that.

In Summary:

Customers are looking for a satisfying and memorable experience. As I am sure, you are when you are patronising businesses as well. Tap into that what you also seek and you will more likely to get in tune with what your customers are looking for.

There will be instances where customers will be rude, inappropriate or difficult. Train your staff to acknowledge that these are a given. That these people cannot be avoided 100%, but it is possible to win them over.

Look for the opportunity in every complaint. Moreover, never forget humility. Customer service is all about the people who express interest in your business and supports it.

That’s it for this week.

As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,
Thomas


 


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