Dining plays in an important role within many cultures in today’s society. I think we can all agree that we do not eat simply eat-out to just nourish our bodies. It is that human connection that seems to be the most important part of dining out. We propose marriage, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, close business deals, and simply connect with friends and family while dining. This is a time that we simply communicate.
But what about the staff working at the restaurant? How important is communication to them?
It all starts from the top. Similar to any other business hierarchy, the restaurant manager requires many of the same skills including the ability to schedule and evaluate employees, communicate with customers, pay attention to details and solve problems. Restaurant managers must communicate effectively with both their staff and their customers.
Restaurant managers are also responsible for overseeing both food quality and personnel operations. The most challenging aspects of being a restaurant manager involve training and motivating staff to consistently meet the never ending customer demand. This involves tremendous communication skills.
As I am sure you are aware, restaurant operations are very unpredictable. There is no way to know in advance exactly how many people will eat at the restaurant that day or night, or even what menu items they are going to order. Staffing for unpredictable demand is challenging because excessive staff scheduling really adds to operational costs, while insufficient staff scheduling limits your ability to meet customer demand.
In addition, for a smooth operating shift at a restaurant, each establishment needs fluent communication from and between the management, hostess, bartender, server, cook, and chef. If just one of these communication channels doesn’t work or is “off”, the entire system fails.
Managers must communicate in a friendly manner with even the most difficult patrons (and employees) at all times. Establishing relationships with customers however, is one way to assure that the patron returns. The manager is essentially the person who fields complaints about poor customer experiences and you never want those to “leave the restaurant”. It is the managers’ role to accommodate their frustrations and requests, so that the customer will return and not damage the restaurants reputation verbally, or now, socially (think Facebook or Twitter).
In addition, a restaurant manager is in charge of hiring and managing the floor staff while the chef is in charge of hiring and managing the kitchen staff. This requires that the manager and chef issue clear and direct instructions as to daily work expectations. An effective manager or chef must make sure the staff is informed of all issues relevant to performing their jobs effectively including information about daily specials, changes to the menu, customer service concerns, and any current advertising promotions.
Without solid communication, a restaurant would suffer and likely close its doors within a short few months. Communication among staff effects morale which ultimately affects the customer or patron of the restaurant, and your bottom line. Put a communication plan together, utilize the many communication resources that are available, and hold regular meetings to gather ideas and feedback from your staff. Trust me – you will be glad you did.
- Doug Radkey
Think about the last time you had a negative buying experience. These bad experiences are almost always linked to poor customer service. Even though most retail stores claim they put people first, it’s rare to find good customer support. But you can get a jump on the competition and attract new customers by focusing on these critical areas of your business.
1. Be committed. Everyone in the company must be devoted to creating a positive experience for the customer. Strive to exceed customer expectations. How do you create this environment? As the boss, you must set the tone. If employees feel respected and appreciated, they’ll be much more likely to treat customers with respect.
2. Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions – thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer?
3. Appreciate the power of “Yes”. Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.
4. Know Your Products. Convey an articulate and in-depth knowledge of products and services to win customer trust and confidence. Make sure that all employees know your company’s products, services, and return policies inside and out. Try to anticipate the types of questions that customers will ask.
5. Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.
Bonus: Give more than expected. Since the future of all revenue lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:
- What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
- What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy?
- What can you give customers that would be totally unexpected?
I hope these tips help you become kick-ass at retail customer service. Always think of ways to enhance your service offerings, your customers will appreciate it and remember it.
- Doug Radkey