From dive-bars to five-stars, I’ve served in a variety of restaurants over the last 10 years. Working in the hospitality industry was a great way to put myself through school and was a transferable skill I also relied on as a traveler.
Looking back at the different bars and restaurants I worked in, I chuckle to myself remembering the unique quirks and issues of each place. Every restaurant had a different set of owners and managers, all of whom had different leadership techniques. There were also those fellow servers and bartenders I will always remember as leaders because of their innate ability and dedication to building lasting relationships with customers, instead of just taking orders.
But what truly resonated with me was how important customer service was for these restaurants, especially the smaller businesses. I am such an advocate for small business CRM applications because they allow small businesses to better serve their customers.
But a software solution can’t improve your tact or how well you listen to a customer. So, I wanted to share these three customer service lessons I learned as a server that I’m sure you can apply to your own small business.
1) Provide customers more than what a computer can
I love cooking, but there are some days when I end up eating at a restaurant because I’m too tired to cook, or even too tired to think of what to cook. I once served someone that did not even open their menu, but just said “I have been making decisions all day and have no interest in making any more. I trust you to order a dish for me that is recommended by the chef”. So I ordered this exhausted business owner the chef’s recommended dish. She loved it and appreciated that I did the thinking for her.
When it comes to your customers, how much thinking are you doing for them? When your customers are ordering your product or service, is there something you can send to them, or advise them to purchase as an add-on, that will improve their experience? The easier you make it for your customers to do business with you, the more they will think of you for that product or service in addition to recommending you to their friends.
2) Give out comment cards
At most restaurants and bars I worked at, comment cards were handed out with every bill and we encouraged the guests to rate their dining experience. If a guest voiced concerns or had a negative experience, the manager would promptly get in contact with that guest to hear them out and offer them another dining experience, giving the establishment another opportunity to shine.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before that customer feedback is crucial for the success of your business. You’ve probably also heard the analogy that when someone has a good experience they tell one person, but if they have a bad one they tell ten. Providing an outlet for customers to voice feedback about your product or service allows you to improve your business, rectify their experience, and keep them as a customer, instead of losing them and never knowing why.
3) Just say sorry
During one of my first waitressing shifts, I was so overwhelmed that I completely forgot to ring in a table’s order. In the chaos that was a typical Friday night, I went a full half hour before I even realized my mistake and needless to say, the patrons were wondering what was taking so long.
I quickly rang in their order, informed my supervisor, and then headed back to the table to face the inevitable thrashing from the hungry family. During the walk over to the table I went through all the excuses I could make for their delayed meals. But as I got closer to the table I came to my senses.
I simply said “Guys, I’m really sorry! The reason your food has taken so long is because I forgot to punch in your order. I’m new to this job, so I guess I just got a bit overwhelmed. I’m so sorry. Your food is being made and the kitchen staff are prioritizing it right now”
To my surprise, these guests (who I dreaded going to talk to) were so appreciative of my honesty and my owning up to the situation that they smiled and told me not to worry.
In the world of small business, mistakes will be made, and a customer may have some strong words for you (hopefully over the phone and not on Twitter). But sometimes all customers are looking for is someone to take ownership for the poor service they received.
After that Friday night I learned that owning up to a mistake and apologizing, while sometimes uncomfortable, is the best practice for keeping your customers happy. Well, that and free dessert.
What Customer Service lessons have you learned in your small business? Leave a comment below or Tweet me @MethodCRM.
Until next time,