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By Kim Warner
Did you know that repeat restaurant customers can account for at least one third of your revenue?
While delicious food is the mark of a successful restaurant, great customer service turns a visiting diner into a returning customer, and a returning customer into a regular.
Stellar customer service requires a mix of creativity, a dedication to building memorable, consistent experiences, and a genuine desire to make your customers feel like family.
Here are four tried and true tactics you can use in your restaurant to help your front-of-house employees deliver incredible customer service experiences.
Elevate your customer service – make it personal. As Dale Carnegie recommends in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.” While customers may subconsciously expect to be made to feel important when they enter a restaurant, it’s the “do it sincerely” part that’ll make the difference.
Case in point: Philadelphia’s Conshy Girls Restaurant Group provides exceptional levels of hospitality with a personal touch – by remembering names or a guest’s birthday. They’ve built their business on the idea of making guests feel like they’ve entered their friend’s home – the epitome of exceptional customer service.
When your staff are driven to establish rapport with customers, they’ll feed off the positive energy the interactions create. As any restaurant survey will show you, happy staff means happy customers, and happy customers will keep your restaurant alive. To determine if your guests are satisfied, you can use restaurant comment cards, a simple survey form used to gather feedback after guests have a meal.
When diners enter your restaurant, they’re looking for the best experience possible. Lucky for them, they have one of your amazing employees as a server. The server dazzles them and treats them the way they’d want to be treated … and then they go the extra mile and comp a special dessert after overhearing talk of an anniversary. Your guests leave with smiles on their faces and generous tips on their table.
Now, the next time those customers enter your restaurant, it’s on your team to re-deliver that same quality of experience. Awesome service has to happen every time – the moment customers detect inconsistency in service or quality, red flags will go up and your restaurant’s reputation will be at stake. Remember, great customer experiences don’t always have to mean a freebie or discount – it simply means that the customer can count on service that’s genuine, welcoming, and attentive.
You’d struggle to find a job posting for a serving position that doesn’t require being strong in conflict resolution. Problem solving is a key element to being a server, and a key element in building rapport with customers.
Even if a problem isn’t the server’s fault, it is the server’s job to make it right with the customer. Perfection isn’t what makes a restaurant great – it’s being able to handle challenges as they occur.
A great server with the right mix of problem-solving superpowers – kindness, compassion, and empathy – will ensure that your customers return for the great food and for the exceptional care provided by your staff.
An example of one-step-ahead customer care is found at Woodwork in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “We really try to empower everyone to be able to take care of guests’ needs on their own,” says General Manager Ryder Prat.
At Woodwork, it’s not about the employee finding a manager and asking what to do when a guest is unhappy, it’s about the staff figuring out the problem on their own and informing the manager of what they’re going to do to resolve it. Customized, proactive service allows the staff to feel empowered and be attuned to guests’ needs.
And problem solving doesn’t always have to be about conflict resolution. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping a customer decide what to order through a little suggestive selling.
When you feel like your front-of-house employees have long mastered their role and might be bordering on boredom, don’t be afraid to shake it up a bit. Challenge your staff to step into a new role, and to bring their winning customer service skills along for the ride.
When employees experiment with different roles, they benefit by increasing their skill sets – and you benefit by discovering new scheduling options. By using restaurant-specific scheduling software, you can easily change roles depending on ability, availability, and your employee’s learning journey.
Take it from Dominic Garcia, director of operations at Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria in Kansas City. His advice is to “definitely rotate more, because rotation allows your employees to learn new skills and be flexible, which allows you to have more power with scheduling when you need to.”
Memorable customer experiences are a team effort. When you’ve stacked your staff with the right people who care about customer service as much as you do, half the battle has been won. Deliver great customer service and your guests will leave talking about even more than your delicious food.
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