As a customer service trainer, coach, author & speaker, Steve DiGioia uses his 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers desire.
...are you turning away customers because you only want a certain type of customer?
I went to a restaurant a few days ago with my wife and daughter; a popular Cuban food spot in a trendy neighborhood that my daughter loves.
As we entered the doors and were met by the hostess, she asked, “Do you have a reservation?”. Uh oh, was this going to be a problem? Would they take us? Is this spot so hip that only the “beautiful people” get in and then only with a reservation? I waited.
In today’s post, I want to show you how a business can still uphold their policies and procedures while satisfying a new customer at the same time. Let’s continue…
“No, we don’t,” my wife responded to her”. “Ok, give me a moment,” the hostess said as she then entered the dining room. We patiently waited and wondered if we should think about finding another spot…but we were hungry.
A few moments later the hostess returned and asked us to follow her to our table. Great news! We got in.
While seated against a brick wall in a busy dining room, we scanned the restaurant. It was nice, and so was our meal – even without a reservation!
Every business sets the parameters they want to operate under:
Open and closing times
Cash only or credit
7-day return policy
Reservation-only or not
No discount coupons allowed
24-hour cancellation policy
But, to be successful and appeal to as many potential consumers possible,
Can we afford to be so stringent in our “wants” that we turn away business that doesn’t fit within our self-imposed rules? Click To Tweet
We enjoyed our meal and will definitely return another time. But if the restaurant insisted on only accepting those with a reservation, we would’t have had the chance to enjoy their offerings and probably wouldn’t try to go there again.
Think about that next time business is slow. Are you turning away customers because you only want a certain type of customer? One who makes it easy for you and that you can plan ahead for?
Even if your product or service is great, does your prohibitions limit the number of people who are willing to enjoy it? If so, what good are your rules?
As I lay in bed, coughing and sneezing from a cold, dreading even going to the kitchen for a glass of water because of aches and pains from my unseen tormentor, I’m comforted knowing, “boy, I’m sure glad I don’t have to go to work today”. But what if I did? How would I be able to serve my customers with these rotten cold symptoms?
That’s the question every service provider must answer on those days when we’re not at our best.
Service doesn’t end when we’re sick or tired. It continues through snowstorms and divorces. It is shared by all who expect to be valued, not for our money but for our humanity. Click To Tweet
But humanity can be altered through illness. Our actions differ because of how we feel and where we’d rather be (like back home in bed). Can we really be expected to provide the same level of service to our customers even when sick?
My answer is yes. Not because it’s easy to do but because it’s what’s needed for those seeking our guidance and assistance. We have a job to do and others need us. Here are…
The 3 Ways to Serve a Customer Even When We’re Not at Our Best
Switch Places with the Customer
Think about how you feel when YOU’RE not at your best and waiting in a long line at the supermarket. Moments seem like hours while your patience wears thin. You just can’t move quick enough through the queue.
Then, just as you reach the cashier, you’re greeted with a warm sincere smile and a few well-measured words of comfort. Small talk that is not forced or contrived, just genuine.
As items roll past the scanner, you, if even just for a minute, forget about your troubles and enter into a conversation with someone who seems to care about your wellbeing.
You didn’t expect anything but received much. You didn’t realize it, but this is just what you needed; a brief break from the thoughts swirling within your head. This provider may also have her own troubles but took the time to interact with you and put her own concerns aside. This is what true service is; doing for others despite our own issues.
It’s easy to say “be a professional” when times are good. But when times aren’t, professionalism may take a back seat. But why?
Most people have core beliefs which direct them throughout their day.
What are your core beliefs regarding service?
What are the standards and expectations you expect to provide or are willing to accept?
There are many ways to do something and we all know how adaptable service providers must be. But the core professionalism must always be there. This is who we are and who we will be. Nothing can take this away from us, not sickness, not sadness, and not hardship.
I remember being told this as a young boy;
“You may not have fancy clothes. They may be old, worn and ill-fitting. But they can always be clean and pressed”. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t take much to retain your core beliefs, even though you aren’t at your best.
Ask for Help
Pride gets in the way of service. We have a job to do and dammit, we’re gonna do it! Well, that’s not always the best action.
The best action sometimes is to ask for help. Help in the form of rest, in comfort from a trusted friend, or advice from a medical practitioner. There are times when we just can’t service our customer, or our friends and family for that matter. We don’t wear a cape nor have superpowers. We cannot do it all.
Think back to the words said by every airline flight attendant during the preflight instructions. They always tell you, in case of emergency and if the oxygen masks drop down, to place a mask on yourself first THEN assist your co-traveler with theirs.
The reason for this is that, in case of emergency, you must help yourself first before you can help others. It’s no different with customer service providers.
To be our best we must care for the customer, be professional and most importantly, take care of ourselves.
Great service comes naturally to those who put themselves in the “shoes of the customer”, stick to their core beliefs of service and professionalism, while taking care of their own self-help – even if we’re not at our best.
OK, there is no such thing as little people; the hourly employees holding minor positions in an otherwise large business. Every employee and each position held are important and must be recognized. That’s where the problems arise; we don’t say hello to the little people anymore.
As we climb the corporate ladder we no longer, intentionally or not, say hello to the many foundational employees who keep the business running; the restaurant dishwasher, hotel housekeeper, mailroom clerk, or department store stock person. We think that since “we’re management now”, we need to interact more with upper management so they can see how brightly our star shines. We’re now focused on being “one of the boys” and more opportunities that may follow because of it.
But without the assistance of those “below you” (I hate using this term, sorry), you’ll never get the job done unless you do it all yourself.
Stop and say hello to everyone you come in contact with, especially those in junior positions or new to the company. Ask how their days off were, wish them a safe travel home at the end of the day, and welcome them all with a warm smile and sincere phrases.
Throughout the years I have gotten more assistance and cooperation from the most unlikely employees because all I had to do was ask. They didn’t help me because I was their boss; most times I wasn’t. They helped me because they respected me because I respected them.
I treated them as a person; the very same person I always say we should treat our customers like. They’re not customers, they are living breathing people with feelings, hopes, wants, and desires. Our employees are exactly the same.
We need customers to feel good about doing business with us and we need our employees to feel good about coming to work each day and dealing with us – not because they have to but because they want to. There is a difference, a difference that cannot always be measured in productivity numbers or satisfaction scores.
Here’s my suggestion to you, at the start of your day, and especially the start of your workweek, set aside some time to walk the floor of your business and engage your team and those from other departments – and do so preferably at the beginning of your shift. Say hello, ask how they are – and most importantly of all – wait and listen for the answer.
Follow-up on what they say and ask a clarifying question. Don’t tell them what you did on your days off, ask about theirs. People love to talk about themselves and appreciate those who stop to listen to their story.
This is the beginning of your journey to becoming a “people person”; someone who is friendly, warm, and kind to strangers and people from all walks of life.
Keep this up and I’m confident that when you need help, all you’ll have to do is ask – and many times you won’t have to ask at all. The “little people” will already be looking out for your best interests.
Why? Because you have shown time and time again that you’ve looked out for theirs!
Image courtesy of monster.com/career-advice/article/favoritism-at-work
With all the daily pressures of controlling costs, especially payroll, how can we still be successful, and provide the highest level of service to our customers, even with a smaller workforce?
Here are a few ideas.
The days of “ensuring” great service because you have high staffing levels are long gone. Today, you need higher productivity from a smaller staff. This can only be achieved from a properly trained workforce.
Each employee must receive effective onboarding and job-specific training, so they are fully functioning as soon as they “hit the floor”. No employee can be allowed to flounder in a position without the knowledge and ability to perform their responsibilities.
Cost overruns are common in businesses without policies and procedures. Most storerooms have case after case of product destined to sit on a shelf instead of being purchased by the customer. Why did you buy so many of that item? When do you reorder? What is the “par” (a minimum supply required to operate) for your business?
Every employee must know what to do, when to do it, how it should be done, why it’s done, and who is responsible to do it.
The term “A place for everything, everything in its place” has been associated with Benjamin Franklin among others and is easily seen as the heart of an organized business.
No employee can be productive if they cannot locate a specific item needed to service the customer.
Cut Out the Dead Wood
Dead wood is rough, bloated, spindly, and weak. You would never build a house with the leftovers from a successful build and expect your house to be a success too.
The same goes for business. We pick up “dead wood employees” during times of high turnover, rapid expansion, and weak management.
You want only the best, the strongest, and most worthy on your team. Through the years many businesses gain more weak employees who are buoyed by the few strong ones. These strong star players cover for the underperformers littered throughout your organization.
But now, you can’t carry the dead wood. You must pair down your workforce. You can no longer carry the ineffective and unproductive. You must cull the dead wood ruthlessly or risk the star performers feeling unappreciated and undervalued.
Stop the Excuses
Identify your shortcomings, then fix them. Cut out the waste, spend only when needed. Hold your people accountable and make the difficult cuts to staff.
Successful people have the difficult conversations until they are no longer difficult. Click To Tweet
Successful businesses do what they must when they must, and how they must. No excuses. Click To Tweet
Many challenges lie ahead on your road to success but surely, they can be overcome. Embrace these 5 tactics today and get ready for the ride!
While celebrating my daughter’s 20th birthday at a local steak restaurant – yes, the chicken finger & fries meals are a thing of the past, I was reminded that great service and experience doesn’t happen by accident. There must be a series of steps planned for and actions taken to allow for great service. Here is my list of 5 things you need to know about great service.
It’s a simple fact that anticipating the needs of your customer must be at the forefront of service. Click To Tweet
Customers want “easy” and customers want to enjoy their experience without having to direct the actions of the service staff.
Don’t make your customer “have to” ask for a refill of beverage when their glass is almost empty. Provide it automatically. Let your customer know that the item comes in different colors or sizes; you’ll never know how many uses they’re planning for your product. Is rain scheduled for today? Have umbrellas available for your customers, even escort them to their car after purchase.
Some customers love popular dishes or products that are no longer offered. Business is most accommodating when they can still provide past favorites when asked.
I once overheard a restaurant diner seated next to me ask for a spinach salad that was not offered on the menu. He was told it wasn’t an option. But, when he pointed out to the server that spinach was a featured side dish on 3 different entrees and didn’t understand why he couldn’t have some prepared as a salad, you should have seen the confused look on the server’s face. BTW, the guest never got his salad.
If you want to retain customers, make sure you adapt to their needs regardless of your existing offerings. It’s really not that big of a deal to modify a product, especially when you have the merchandise and abilities already on hand.
It Has a Flawless Design
“Don’t put the cart before the horse”. We’ve all heard this phrase. Or this one, “You must walk before you run”. Each points out that basic and standard underlying actions must be in place before you can expect to excel in other areas. Example:
You cannot give great service unless you have the means to do so. A restaurant hoping to keep prices low must serve more customers to generate the needed profit. You can’t serve more customers without a kitchen designed for efficient service and a well-trained team motivated to do so. All needed equipment must be readily available and employee levels set for peak performance to compliment your service goals.
Customers assume each of your employees knows the business like the back of their hand. But we know that’s not a realistic expectation for most. So, how do you overcome this? By empowering your employees to do as needed without “needing” prior approval from management (under most situations).
Trust, training, and procedures lay the foundation of great service everywhere. Click To Tweet
Empower your team to make decisions to serve your customers. But this is only possible when you trust them to make the “right” decisions. This trust is built on proper training and realistic company policies and procedures that allow your team to anticipate and adapt to the ever-changing needs of your business.
Poise, or to be poised, is when you are graceful, elegant, relaxed, and steady. Businesses with a team of self-assured and poised employees can remove the stress from most customers and allow their experience to be savored. High-pressure sales tactics may increase sales but decrease the confidence customers have in the business.
Now that you’re better prepared to provide excellent customer service, let your customers feel special and appreciated when doing business with you and make sure this level of service is offered to everyone who passes through your doors.
Image courtesy of surveycrest.com/blog/good-vs-great-customer-service/
I once worked for a boss who led through intimidation. Whenever there was an issue to resolve he would say “Send (name) an email about it and “CC” me”. Don’t you hate it when weak leaders want to be in everyone’s business?
He thought that, just because the boss got copied on the email, it would make the email recipient respond quicker and act on the request right away. But all it did was to tick-off the recipient who would always ask “Why did you copy the boss on that email?”
This is not leadership; it’s a lack of leadership – and micromanaging too. (read my post about micromanaging employees)
To make matters worse, the boss would later complain to many about how much time it took him to read/answer his emails. WHAT, are you kidding me? YOU’RE getting too many emails because YOU asked for them…
Blinders. They’re used on racehorses to keep their focus on running straight ahead and to not be distracted by the horses on either side. For most horses, blinders are a good and productive means to an end.
But for some of us humans working in the customer service industry, we’ve decided to wear blinders too.
We focus on our job with little interaction with our fellow co-workers. We think this “laser focus” is our key to success until we’re shown the door. Then we ask, “Why am I being fired?”
My ham and cheese omelet was delicious, cooked perfectly and piping hot. Bite after bite I tore into the food while thinking of what lies ahead for my day. Another swallow to savor then I heard it…
“I can’t take these people, I hate customers!”.
I looked around to see another waitress mumbling and shaking her head as she walked through the diner. She clearly was upset at something that happened. But what happened?
Does it matter?
Well, in the eyes of most managers, no, it doesn’t matter. An employee’s job, especially for those who work in the customer service industry, is to take the good with the bad and brush off the despair from challenging customers. “Do your job with a smile regardless of what happens.” Easier said than done…
This original article was written by Steve DiGioia.
Tired of all the management talk of how to create a great team, how to become more productive, and how to become a better manager? Yeah, me too. So, what’s the plan?
The plan is to stop talking and start doing.
In a recent edition of my subscriber-only “Tips on Thursday” I published 10 keys to successful management. As usual, this post was widely-read and received well from my subscribers, but something was wrong…
When I write a post, I have no way of knowing if my words made an impact with the readers unless I receive a comment or email from one of them. Feedback is a gift and without it, I wonder if my writings have an impact at all.