Customer service has that funny word in it…service. So when I think of customer service, I think to taking care of people by serving them.
If you’re like me, it drives you crazy when you ask your server what is great on the menu, and they answer with, “everything’s great!” Really?! Everything?! I have yet to experience the restaurant where I find everything to be great.
Recently I was in a very nice “establishment” when I looked at the menu and found myself not being able to combine the ingredients on the each menu item they create in my brain what they were going for. I looked at eight items and could come up with a decent flavor profile for any of them. So I asked what should be a perfectly acceptable question. Here was the conversation:
CLo – What’s your top three favorites on the menu?
Server – Well that totally depends on your tastes.
CLo – (Thank you Captain Obvious, but I don’t understand what tastes you’ve put together.) Yeah, but I’m just wanting to know what YOU think is the best.
Server – Well what flavors have you been craving lately?
CLo – (What flavors have I been craving?!) Here’s what I’m wondering. Of the items on the menu, what’s outrageous?
Server – It’s all outrageous. We wouldn’t put it on the menu if it wasn’t.
Oh for the love! It’s at this point that I’m thinking, how can you not be able to guide your customer on your own product? How difficult is this? Don’t you know your stuff inside and out? If this was a fast food chain, I could let it slide. But it wasn’t. It was very nice.
If you came to me for guidance on our products, I can guide you like crazy. Not even a question. And I sure wouldn’t allow you to be frustrated with my service of you. My goal is to make sure you get exactly what you want, or what I think is best for you. Otherwise, what’s the point?
As a leader, you have to understand that your customer service IS sales. Without it, you lose customers quickly.
Question: Can you tell about a time you experienced customer service like this?
127 thoughts on “Customer Service From A…Server”
“Oh for the love!!” haha. The love of who? Pete? Haha. Anyways. Ya. I get this All. The. Time. At nice restaurants. I don’t mind the “everything is good” line, as long as its quickly followed by “but I especially like the..” or even better, “but I had the…last week and it was fantastic!”It’s like they’re scared that by saying what they like they’re insulting the other choices! It’s a great point you make though. Servers in all industries HAVE to realize that when people ASK your opinion, they (wait for it…) WANT your opinion!!! Don’t make them beg. Give them your professional opinion. And then follow up by asking questions that will help you recommend the best possible option. Thanks for sharing Chris. I’m glad restaurants have not be banned, if they were, you’re content would dry up faster than spit on a sidewalk on a July day in Texas!
Skropp You went from restaurants to spit on the sidewalk…
Yes, yes I did. And what a flawless transition it was! 😉
Yes, yes I did. And what a flawless transition it was. What can I say? I’m a cowboy, and you know what they say…if you can’t take the cowboy, don’t go to the rodeo ;). Well, I just made that up…but they could say that!
Skropp And it would make perfect sense… ? (Not!)
Comin out swingin’ your first day back I see?? Haha.
Skropp Wow. It’s already getting spicy on here, and it’s not even lunchtime yet! (Like the two food references? “Spicy” and “lunchtime”. I absolutely slay me.)
That was a great use of food references! @ChrisLoCurto would be proud!! And the comment “I absolutely slay me” was the cherry on top!!Oh, and the 10 year old version of myself wanted me I say “SHE STARTED IT!!” haha
After watching a Wal-Mart employee treat a kind and quiet gentleman in front of me like he was the enemy behind the front lines, I got ticked especially when her crummy attitude came my way next. When she in a rude way asked if there was anything else I said with a big grin, “yes, thanks for asking. I would like you to please never take a role in customer service for the sakes of all of out here.” I went on to point out several non customer related fields (I.e. working with computers that had no human contact, etc).
JenMcDonough Ugh!! If you don’t like people, don’t be in customer service. 🙂
On the other hand, you don’t know their circumstances. Not to justify rudeness, but my guess is that it is not their dream job.
lilykreitinger true- you never know what walk brought people to that moment. After recovering from surgery recently, as I SLOWLY walked out of a store, I had several people impatient with me at my pace. It was then that I realized that I may look normal, but each step was agony inside. No one else would know that. I prayed each person would have the insight to see themselves in other persons worse situation before judging. Or even reacting negatively inside themselves. We rarely can change another’s situation, but for a brief shining moment be a beacon of peace, happiness and offer the example of kindness in our actions with those that seem the least able to offer it.
Very true and good point.Normally I am very good at thinking about this when people act a certain way. Having worked in medical admin roles for 20 years, have seen firsthand close relatives go through surgeries, hospice care, I get it that people definitely do act not their best during their worst times (I know this from have a son with a chroni lifetime medical condition and from being financially devasted during the same time). I actually enjoyed customer complaints as I was good at seeing all sides and can diffuse most situations that came my way in 20 years from people that ate going through rough patches in life.Having said that, this particular person was a cruel type I person who enjoyed being in power – it was obvious. Her co-workers and the people in line actually looked relieved when she stomped off without a another word. Her toxic attitude was affecting her team and the customers experience – I am in no way felt it was right for her to be that mean to those who were kind people that were not the type to say anything. I didn’t say it sarcastically, just matter of factly with a smile because it was the truth.The tension of the area eased up considerably when she was gone compared to when she was bossing people around. If people want to be crabby that is fine but I don’t tolerate the little guys being bullied in this world.
Defintely not her dream job
JenMcDonough I hear you on all your points- and I offer my encouragement to you to keep up your great work!!! Way to stick up for those that can’t stand for themselves- that is lacking as well too much these days. My kids often comment, “man, that job would bite” as they ponder others they see working in our travels, or daily life. I try to encourage them to see that it may not be ideal, but you can even take a crummy job and make it something you are proud to do, even if it is mind numbing- use your time to pray, if it smells, be glad you don’t work in sewers all the time- that someone out there has it worse, and we can all find reasons to be grateful we have what we have and then to SHARE that through our service in our jobs.
Kathleen What an AWESOME mom you are Kathleen…love it!!!
JenMcDonough I bet that felt great! Did she take a break after you left to go cry? or did she turn to a co-worker (or worse, another customer) and tear you a new one? I hope she actually took your words to heart.
cabinart – she looked like she would have prefer to lean over and punch me, but she stomped away like one of my kids when they 2 and mad. You could actually “feel” everyone relax after she left – she had an attitude surrounding her that is for sure. (:
I have been on both sides of this at restaurants and fast food places. I may have only asked the question once or twice as a customer, and I can’t remember what the answer was exactly. I do remember that they did give a specific answer. Once was (I think) an honest opinion, but the other was the most expensive item on the menu (not sure if it really was their favorite or not).On the service side, I would give the general answer when I first started. But then I would offer my favorite of two categories (at Hardee’s: favorite burger and favorite chicken sandwich). I was narrowing it down for them, but they still had a choice depending if they felt more like a cow or a chicken.
THAT is an acceptable way to answer the question! Great example.
JoshuaWRivers BAH!!!! Nie Joshua!!! Let me ask, do they have other meat options other than beef or chicken? :-O
If they do, I don’t want to know…
lilykreitinger It’s not Chinese….
ChrisLoCurto It’s been more than 10 years, so I speak in past tense. They did also have a fish fillet, but I was never big on fish. There was also roast beef (still beef, but not ground 🙂
I think I am a bit of a magnet for this kind of server… seriously. I have been in three or four BBQ places and ended up with a vegetarian server. Seriously.There is something about someone who loves their craft enough to expend the effort required to be fully educated in it. Knowing the menu, knowing how things taste, these are huge in the server biz. In my work I make a point to know as much about my clients as possible in order to point them to the best possible solutions for them, or to tell them that I am unable to help them… but I know someone who can.That would be an incredible experience: having a server say “This restaurant probably isn’t the best fit for you today… but the one next door might be perfect!”
Matt Steen I agree. And what if you just educated yourself enough to gain good tips?! I mean c’mon people.
ChrisLoCurto I worked at Hickory Farms throughout college- they insisted we taste each item in the store (bonus for starving college kid) so that we would have a honest opinion to offer the customer. They didn’t want us to just say its good- they wanted us to have an informed opinion and offer it.When management is on board with offering excellence in service it is easy to have employees enlivened. I have to say my first place of employment was a steakhouse chain in PA- they taught me to hustle, to add on sell, (with contests for selling the most slices of cheese or bacon!!!how insane that would sound- but we busted our humps to earn that title ) to smile, to work the line ahead so people knew we were moving them as efficiently as we could with a smile, and when I got the $.025/ hour raise I was thrilled- when they made me employee of the month and on the training board- at 16 you would think they gave me me own restaurant- they did in a way. I am still proud to take me kids there, and I hope my kids learn from their employers how to rock it, have fun, and be a great asset to themselves and to whom the work with and for.
ChrisLoCurto I have been thinking about this for a few hours, and it kind of scares me: I don’t know that many people make the connection between service, sales, and tip size. What I mean is this: I get the sense that many people expect tips, they are an entitlement. There is no realization that tips are tied to their service, OR that if they upsell a diner that their tip will go up. Instead, they approach their job as if they are a pack mule: I haul orders into the kitchen, haul plates out to the table. Once in a while you stumble across a server who gets it, treats serving like the art that it is, and reaps the benefits.What bugs me about all this is that I have been asking myself “where am I being a pack mule, instead of fully embracing my art.” I help my clients work through these kinds of things on a daily basis… but I need to soak on this and see where I am missing it….
Matt Steen I’m pretty sure I’d go with whatever BBQ a vegetarian server suggested, because if it won them over… it must be good! 🙂
ErikJFisher That should have been my first sign… they hadn’t been won over!
My commenting skills may be a little rusty, so bear with me ; 0) It seems to me like Customer Service is a term that has lost its value. When you apply for a job at many organizations, “customer service rep” is the last link of the food chain. We probably need to come up with a catchy term such as “King/Queen of Awesomeness” so people understand how critical their role is. The server at the “nice establishment” clearly has never been told this. They should be able to rattle off their most popular dishes and guide you to make the best selection for your taste. I had an awesome experience at a great place on Friday and the server clearly explained the most popular choices and best combinations. It makes decisions go easier. We all represent our business/organization and are responsible for providing an awesome experience to anyone who needs our product or service. I do have one question Chris, what did you order? I need to update the restaurant review tab on the Tribe Glossary : 0 )
Should take you long to get your comments back to we’re they we’re… They weren’t that good before! OH! Zinger!! Haha. It’s great to have you back!And you’re right. TRUE customer service as rare as a tofu burger at a rodeo BBQ! (man, I am on a ROLL with the western sayings today!! Haha)
I’m going to go back and comment on posts for the past week to make up for lost time
Great idea. Do a good job, Chris might have to update the top commenters for July! Ahahahaha
lilykreitinger We need something other than “Queen of Awesomeness”, Lily. Maybe you’ve been away for a while–no one told you. Becky Powell has earned that title weeks ago on one of the podcasts! Ha ha! Just kidding! Welcome back! Your fellow CLo tribesmen missed you!But on a more serious note, you bring up a great point. A representative of any company should know the product inside and out—restaurant, and every other industry as well!
Picky! You know what I meant 🙂
lilykreitinger “King/Queen of Awesomeness” LOVE this idea!!! Seems silly, but it would get the point across. 🙂
I recently read Mark Sanborn’s story of a receptionist who called herself Intergallactic Empress and had a sign on her desk: Receptionistville. Population: 1. How cool is that??
lilykreitinger I love that idea! Not many “bosses” are ok with allowing the employees the freedom to express their desire to be unique, worthwhile and an asset. It is beyond fun, it is helpful- I had one boss that referred to me as ” Strategic Command ” as I was Customer Service Mgr. His feelings about how important that space rubbed off on me more each day- and it was a title I was proud to hold to the world.
lilykreitinger If I’m a server at a restaurant, I’m going to use my discount to taste all the dishes, and be able to give a diner my taste palatte (spicy, sweet, whatever) and whatever I liked in each of those areas. If your a server, why would you NOT do this?
You shouldn’t have to pay for it, it should be part of your training!
lilykreitinger I don’t understand how there can be national, upscale restaurants with a menu over 20 pages long… how can you do so many vastly different things ‘well’?? focus on what you do best, and excel at it.
lilykreitinger @ErikJFisher When Borders still existed with the Seattle’s Best Coffee shops, all the baristas were required to taste all the new beverages and food so they could recommend and sell it. I assume most restaurants are like that, right? Can’t sell what you haven’t tasted.
Man do I agree with you: service is sales. I had a bad service experience via a live chat session with an e-mail provider I work with. I was trying to get an autoresponder series to work, and it just wasn’t. At first, it felt like the guy on the other end was treating me like I was stupid. (That ticked me off man!) But I needed the service, so I pushed through. Had to basically spell out everything I needed to have happen – pretty basic stuff when it comes to an autoresponder, but anyway. Eventually the guy was able to solve my problem. But what it was sure frustrating to have to spend like 20 minutes explaining to him why his product wasn’t working for me. Lesson for providing service: never EVER, EVER make your customer feel stupid. Maybe the answer is simple for you (the provider) but for the customer, this little detail could be the source of hours/days/weeks of frustration. Serve them right, and they’ll LOVE you forever.
Aaron Nelson Great point, Aaron. They are being paid to be an expert, but they need to remember that if their customers knew as much as they did, we wouldn’t need them–and they’d be out of a job!
skottydog Exactly! If I wanted to do that much thinking and have the stress, I would have chopped my own veggies and slaved over a stove myself. I came to be served! (funny, it’s like Jesus in reverse, but I can live with that)Better put, I came to pay you to serve me…you know, where I give you money that I worked hard for in exchange for you working hard. It’s like magic or something.
MattMcWilliams2 Ha! I think people forget that concept, don’t they? I worked hard for the money I’m giving you, so you can work hard for me. What a concept!
Aaron Nelson This reminds me of that commercial for Kayak.com:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogILqUidZLA&feature=relmfuThey made fun of the people that don’t use their site. The first time I saw that, I said, “dude, I’m never using that site, because they just made me feel like a bonehead.”
selfemployedbob OK, that is actually hysterical though.My assistant uses nothing but Kayak to do all my travel planning. But I can totally see how that rubs people the wrong way.
Aaron Nelson UGH!! I have an IT consulting company precisely for this reason! I’ve noticed over my years in IT that there’s a disdain for “users” and IT folks treat their users as if they’re 3rd graders. This is disgusting. I’m constantly telling my guys that they have to remember a few things: 1) if the users could figure this out on their own, they wouldn’t need you. 2) if we make their experience of dealing with us too painful, they’ll find someone else to do it. 3) remember, and this to me is the most important, our time is NOT more important than theirs, period! Our job is to make sure that the customer can get back to work as fast as possible because typically IT is not a profit center, it’s a cost center in a company and the person who’s having the issues is costing the company money.In my opinion this same mentality should extend to all industries. For example, it amazes me to watch servers in a restaurant appear annoyed when they get another table and they ask them for something else. My wife and I actually observed a server argue with a customer once that the reason their food was taking so long was because it was time for their lunch break. What?!?! The stories are endless. One would think that since we’re in a “down economy with unemployment sky-high” you’d think that these companies could expect better of their employees and would want to beat their competition with better service. Oh, sorry. I forgot. Those in management/leadership need to care about the experience of their customers too. ;)I firmly believe that the worst thing that can happen to a company is apathy and when the apathy happens closest to the customer, it’s not too long before those customers find somewhere else to go. These companies think they can hold onto customers by being cheaper than their customers. They just don’t hold onto the best customers who end up being loyal.
Bravo! Burnt rice on this one!! Great points!
LaytonWelborn Preach it Layton!!! BTW, there was a great skit on SNL years ago where an IT guy made people feel like idiots and made them get out of their chair so he could fix it. Cracked me up. Might be a good funny example to use.
Bret Just looked up that video because I haven’t seen it before. I’ll definitely use it as an example of how people tend to see us in IT.
LaytonWelborn I like that idea that potentially the ‘down economy’ is leveling the playing field so that businesses need to compete by treating the customers they have, and new potential customers with the best customer service they can, not to mention getting WAY better at it!
ErikJFisher Oops sorry Erik – I repeated what you said. So true though – it’s worth repeating. Service and loving on your clients IS competing – and more so when budgets are being slashed.
LaytonWelborn This reminds me of time our “server” brought our food and then disappeared for almost 30 minutes because she had to take a break. It’s fine to take a break, but make sure everything is covered. In a restaurant, it is not one server’s responsibility. Everyone should be watching out for the needs of the customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bus boy or the manager. If you really have to take a break that bad, at least have someone cover you!
JoshuaWRivers Wurd Joshua. I used to be a host, busboy, bartender and a dishwasher at a restaurant. My boss gave me hands on service training at all positions – simply because you never know when you may need to get out there and serve the customer. Some of the hardest but best training I’ve ever gotten.
LaytonWelborn Love your down economy point: at all times you need to watch your customer service, but in down times — you need to be on top of it like crazy. I think I read a tweet from Dave Ramsey that hits home to this: you can compete on how much you love your customers. In a down economy, price wars abound. But I think people are willing to keep paying your normal rates if you show them the love.
Find out what your customer’s level of expertise is and tailor your response to that. If not, they’ll dislike feeling stupid.
lilykreitinger Totally! Or just plain pay attention to the person’s question. My question, in my opinion, was demonstrating that I had the tech knowledge required to play with their toys – I just got lost in one of their processes. The dude who ‘helped me’ seemed to ignore that….Active listening is required to provide awesome service.
Aaron Nelson Why are people so insecure that they need to make you feel less than them? Don’t they understand that if they just help you, they are being great? Draw your security from changing my life in a positive manner, not a negative one.
ChrisLoCurto People in general are just a mess!
ChrisLoCurto Wurrrrrddd! Never thought about that, but very true. You need to be secure in yourself to provide great service, don’t you?
Aaron Nelson I believe this type of behavior is similar to the story that Dave talks about in his recollection of Sharon and his interaction with a doctor who insists on lowering his glasses to the tip of his nose and speak in medical terms almost exclusively. It forced Dave to remind the Doc that he will not get paid until he changes his tone and makes sure that Dave & Sharon understand fully what he’s explaining. It is easy for someone like this to make their clients/customers feel stupid by talking in a way that others don’t understand and if the customer doesn’t speak up, they’ll continue to behave this way. As mentioned earlier, I can’t stand this. Being from the south, one of my favorite movies growing up was Smokey & the Bandit and in that movie there’s a great conversation between Burt Reynolds and Sally Field where she asks him if he knows of this Broadway director, that playwright, etc. ( not sure the specifics, but please bear with me ). When he proudly says, “No”, she looks at him like he’s an idiot. But then he asks her if she knows who Richard Petty or Cale Yarborough is. She says no with a “so what” kind of attitude. His response is great, “You’re only as smart as which part of the country you’re sittin’ in.”I make sure that I (and all those working with me) remember that my users/customers/clients/etc. don’t live in “my part of the country” and most of the time, don’t care ( they shouldn’t have to) but it’s my job to make their time in my part of the country as pleasurable as possible.If I remember why I’ve been asked to help ( to alleviate as much of their pain as possible ), then they’ll want to come back.
ChrisLoCurto Seems like the concept of “everyone is in sales” is just ignored in some companies. Especially parts of the company that are heavily technical. That’s no excuse though…just a reminder since I’m in a heavily technical industry.
The server made the mistake of going the route of ‘It’s all about the customer’ instead of just being a real human being. It’s great if I ‘found everything I was looking for’ in your store’, just be a real person. Isn’t this the thing that makes us cringe when we are browsing in stores and the salesman comes up and asks if there is anything they can help us with? Is it helpful? Sure, but it’s also creepy. I’d rather they be ready, available, and visible when the time comes I have a question, and be human then.
ErikJFisher Amen! I think there was a certain arrogance that made the experience one that I don’t want to experience again. 🙂
ErikJFisher I hate it when sales people do that. And if you read the ‘E-myth’ you’ll know that ‘Can I help you find anything’ is the worst question you can be asking on the floor. But it’s weird – I think you do need to find a way to engage your customer so I know that I’m not being ignored. That has happened to, where no sales person has approached me when I needed help. Felt ignored or just like a big X – walked out for that reason too.
Aaron Nelson I agree! As much as I hate being bothered when I don’t want to, I hate not being able to find someone when I DO need them!
This type of experience drives me nuts, particularly since we only allow ourselves a “date night” maximum of once a month. We are excited to get out of the house alone, and literally count the days on the calendar, and it is more than disappointing to have a mediocre server when the big night finally arrives.Our last outing sadly went much the same as Chris’. I’m a HUGE fan of sangria, provided it is made well. There is nothing worse than looking forward to a nice cocktail once a month, hiring a sitter, having your spouse drive, and paying $9 for the drink, only to have it stink.I always ask the server in these situations “How is the Sangria here? Do you recommend it? Is it a mix, or do they use fresh ingredients?” Well, our server was busy, and didn’t have time for such interrogations, so she clearly was shutting me up and replied, “All of our drinks are great.” Well, not so much. And it was $10! I would have rather bought a 6-pack, and thrown away the other 5 beers!
What’s your favorite sangria recipe? Just curious.
lilykreitinger I’ve never made it myself, but a friend of mine has a great recipe. As far as restaurants go, on Long Island there is a Spanish restaurant called “Meson Ole”. Every time I visit back home, I make a point to eat there. The food is incredible, and the drinks are even better. You never need more than one, and it is priced well.
skottydog And that person is the type of person who wonders why their tips are low.
ChrisLoCurto Yes, and it creates a vicious cycle. They get pissed that they didn’t get tipped well, so they take it out on the next table. Then, THEY don’t tip well, and it continues.
skottydog I get it – we rarely eat out anymore because the mediocre food and lame service don’t justify the prices. When you throw the long drive and the long wait for food into the mix, I’d much rather stay home. (If I were cloned, we’d ruin the economy!)
cabinart I hear that! Dave Ramsey followers are usually bad for business!
No, we’re great because we’re not broke!!
skottydog LOL at “I would have rather bought a 6-pack, and thrown away the other 5 beers!”
skottydog Have you ever read or heard the Pepsi story from John Miller’s QBQ?
Bret Love that story – one of my favorites in the book. Encapsulates the whole idea of QBQ!
CarolDublin Yes it does! I’d have told the story, but John tells it so much better, and I’d hate to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t already heard it. 😉
skottydog Stang man, that sucks! We had that happen at a new ‘gourmet chinese food’ spot that just opened up. We saw it…drove by it many times, and finally saved enough to experience the spot (we love chinese) only to have the absolute worst dining experience ever. Expensive with $$$$$, puny servings, and the food was basically…garbage. I felt so disappointed by that experience that we complained on their facebook page, and vowed to never ever return. Their brand image promises a great experience, but reality is like being mugged in a busy subway train. Sucked. There’s something important to that: your brand promises one thing, but are you following through with it in the trenches?
This post quickly reminded me of what my buddy Zig says, “Be the assistant buyer for your customer.”Sub-par service, while easy to spot, creates huge gaps for the entrepreneur who can fill it. Don’t have a specific example to offer. However, I’d like to challenge the readers and myself to get the word out, in exponential-like style, the merchants and leaders that are unforgettably awesome.
JoelBoggess and that’s why I love Zig!! Thanks Joel!!
ChrisLoCurto He’s an icon in my book as well.
1. It is my guess that to a majority of servers, they are simply collecting a paycheck and don’t really give a rodent’s hind end about the job.2. I wonder if different DISC types want different types of answers – Chris is a get-to-the-point guy, but others might prefer want a little social interaction (although this server sounded REALLY annoying!)3. This reminds me of the frustration when calling a customer “service” phone tree, finally getting a person who only knows rote responses, and then having them ask how they can be of further service. It could make my head lopsided from bashing it against the wall.4. Welcome back, Lily!5. Why is it that the lowest paid employee is usually the face of a business? 6. Why would a Queen of Awesomeness want to stay in that low-paid position?
Thanks Jana!!! I loved reading You don’t need a title to be a leader. People in high or low paying jobs can be awesome or miserable. It’s a choice.
cabinart These are awesome!!! HAHAHA!! Especially #5. That’s a great question.
I waited a LOT of tables over the years, from age 15 through the end of high school (and yes, I was technically illegal for some of those years, but my manager and I had an agreement not to squeal, because not only did he want me out front, I also wanted to be out front too) and it really does take a gift for listening to do the job well. When I was “on”, I could size up a table in the first few seconds and figure out if they were going to be:* The kind that wanted lots of attention from me,* The kind that wanted me when they wanted me, and otherwise wanted to be left alone, * The kind that saw me as a necessary evil and wanted me to be as unobtrusive as possible, * The kind that wanted me to entertain them as well as bring them food, or any of several other types that escape my mind right now. Figuring that out, and responding accordingly, was essential. And not making the table feel badly for their wishes. Having a high-maintenance table right next to a low-maintenance table could leave the low-maintenance table feeling badly if you aren’t attentive when you’re there, and observant when you’re not. And so on.As CLo pointed out way up top, though, it comes down to paying attention and realizing that you’re in sales. Not the kind of sales that pushes the bottle of wine with dinner because it’ll pad your check kind of sales. But the kind of sales that helps create such a fantastic experience that the guest can’t help but want to come back again and again.Good service can make up for bad food. But nothing can make up for bad service.
Bret If you ask my kids, they’ll tell you that they’re tired of me mentioning this to them every time we go out to eat. It’s now a game to see where servers (and their managers) are missing opportunities all the time to make someone’s experience remarkable just because they don’t feel they need to work that hard.The smallest things make a difference, for example, just having a little empathy for your customers and put yourself in their shoes for 2 seconds.
What is sad is that this server probably thought he were doing a good job. But really, what flavors are you craving? The only thing worse is when they ask a couple of questions but then start recommending things that don’t match what you just answered. Last year when I bought my laptop, the one sales guy tried to sell me on one with all these bells and whistles that I had just told him I didn’t need. Needless to say, I found a different sales guy to complete the purchase.
CarolDublin It’s really amazing how many sales people I encounter who don’t know when to stop selling. When I’ve bought in, when I’ve got my debit card out, when I’m asking you to give me one in a bag, for heaven’s sake, stop giving me talking points! The only thing that might come from your continued talking is that you’ll hit upon some point that will talk me OUT of the purchase!
Untrained sales professionals who just don’t know how to sell what they are selling!
ChrisLoCurto I actually was getting frustrated out loud FOR you.This and similar experiences are so irritating. They literally make me IRATE. (side note: I just figured that irritating comes from irate…yay me!)This is the equivalent of going to Lowe’s and asking which fridge is best and them saying they are all great. Really? This one is $300 and would fit nicely in a phone booth, while this one here is $3000 and would barely leave room in a space shuttle…and yet they are all great?One word I learned to quickly eliminate in sales was “about.” (Or similar words like “around,” “approximately,” “at least,” etc.).I used to sell insurance leads to agents and they naturally wanted to know the volume of leads they could expect. “About 50 leads a month” was a crappy answer even if it was accurate. How many other agents get these leads? “Between 3 and 4 is pretty accurate.” What?NO! I learned quickly that the best way to both impress them and make them feel taken care of was to give them exact numbers. “Joe, last month we had 52 leads that fit your criteria and this month so far we have had 31.””Larry, in the past 30 days the average number of agents getting a lead in your area is 3.27.”And if I did not know the answer (meaning I could not look it up fast enough) I said “I don’t know the exact answer to that and I want you to get accurate information from me. Why don’t I look that up and call you right back with it.”And to answer your question Chris…here’s a gem from last week:Me: How is the BBQ cooked? Server: In BBQ sauce. Wow. That really helps, Sparky.
MattMcWilliams2 Reminds me of “Dumb and Dumber”:Lloyd: What’s the soup du jour?Waiter: It’s the soup of the day.Lloyd: Mmm… that does sound good.
Bret Funny I literally quoted that today for a different reason. Was reading the latest Consumer Reports and they had a picture of this:Soup du Jour: Cream of CrapYum!
Your server’s response about BBQ sauce reminds me of something my husband would say! but he would be completely facetious 🙂
ChrisLoCurto typo in 2nd sentence So when I think of customer service, I think to taking care of people by serving them.should be:So when I think of customer service, I think of taking care of people by serving them.
I think some of this, sadly, is societal.I lived for almost 5 years in Australia, and out there, people do jobs and are valued for them. The same bloke who was flipping my burgers at Maccas (McDonalds) when I got there was still flipping my burgers when I left, and he was just as happy to be doing it. Same for the folks at the DMV-equivalent, and the Post, and all the jobs that we over here might think of as menial, or beneath us, or stepping-stone jobs to something better.See, the attitude over there is that someone has to make my burger, and if it’s you, then goodonya and thank you. There’s no looking down your nose at a day laborer for doing what they do because every job is valuable to society and they understand that. We, on the other hand, look at servers and wonder if they’re really frustrated actors under those aprons. Can you imagine introducing yourself at neighborhood gatherings as a career waiter?So while I blame the folks in service occupations to a degree, I also blame a society that views them as underlings, people to be pitied or at least viewed as a caste apart. Hmmm. And I was wondering what I’d write about tomorrow….
Bret I agree with the principal, but I have to admit that I love interacting with someone who truly loves what they do. I believe that passion is contagious and to see someone who appears to go out of their way to make my experience great, I don’t care if someone else thinks that a job is menial. Excellence is not (or should not be) exclusive to high-paying positions.To me, if a server is a struggling actor/musician/etc, then they could take that opportunity to hone their craft and provide a memorable “intimate performance” for just my table. ;)Who knows, they could be waiting on a future director/producer/etc or someone who knows that person. Just a thought.
LaytonWelborn Couldn’t agree more. The point I wanted to make, and may have fumbled, was that we as a society, by devaluing jobs like these so much, have made it harder for those in the job to see the work they do as valuable and worthwhile. Which in turn makes it harder to want to bring a level of enthusiasm every day which will make your experience great.
But the truth is – we are to do whatever work we do – WITH ALL OUR HEARTS. And a person has to assume the responsibility for how they view they job. It is when we say “….I would do more on a job if I only had thus and so job…” and then perform poorly on the job we do have.
Bret Again, I think it’s a choice on both sides. I understand why servers, cashiers, salespeople get frustrated. They don’t get treated with lots of respect by their managers and their clients. They don’t get paid high wages. They are, like Jana said, underpaid and overworked and they are the face of the business to the public. However… any person can make a choice to be thankful for the job they have, even if it’s not ideal or temporary and make the best of it because the customer is not responsible for their situation. They are there to buy a product or a service. And it’s definitely the leaders’ responsibility to treat their team with dignity, appreciate their hard work and provide the training they need to perform with excellence.
lilykreitinger It’s not just the leaders’ job, it’s ours as a society. Like Dave says about money, it’s not the government’s job to fix our economy, and it’s not “leadership’s” job to fix this perception problem with so-called menial jobs. Someone has to cart away my garbage every week or I’d drown in my own filth. So I’m every bit as thankful for that individual doing his job as I am for the financial planner who helps me figure out how to invest, and the teacher who introduces new thoughts to my kids, and the police officers trying to keep order during my morning commute, and the dentist who pulled my daughter’s teeth yesterday morning…And the girl behind the counter at Chick-Fil-A who smiled as she served us our dinner last night.So I agree that they can make a decision to be happy in their situation. I’m just saying that the collective we can make it a lot easier for them than we generally do because we’re predisposed to look down on those in dirty, service, or labor jobs.
I owned a restaurant at one time (I think I was having a mid-life crisis or something) – but it was a small restaurant and many times I waited on tables. Several times I was treated poorly by customers until they discovered I was the owner. The attitude changed tremendously. I personally never look down on ANYONE who is doing a day’s work for a day’s pay. It just shows they will do whatever it takes to get ahead. And especially after working in a restaurant – albeit mine – I understand how service people can be treated harshly.
This rattles me for a different reason. There are hundreds of research materials available that suggest people rarely care about customer service that exceeds expectations or goes the extra mile (unless something really, really bad happens). What customers DO care about, however, is a product or service being delivered as promised. The problem starts because most service people and their leaders have absolutely no idea what was promised to begin with. Hence the breakdown. If customer service is sales, then sales is a promise. If you want to succeed at the former, you better know the latter.
Jon Henry Great point! I hear stories all the time about “great” sales people that are able to close the deal, but the customer finds out later that they promised something that the “company” wasn’t able to deliver. Unfortunately, in the construction business this happens daily because price is often the determining factor.
It sounds like the server was trying to do a good job but was over-thinking it. Answering questions with questions is a great way to do sales but sometimes you just need to answer the simple question with a simple answer. Perhaps the server was trained to do it that way though.
JoelFortner Maybe this server was trying like you said, but he or she should be putting himself or herself in the customers shoes. If the customer asks a question, being evasive isn’t going to win any awards.When I’m a customer, and I ask a question, I want simple expert advice before making my buying decision. If I can’t get that, then I get frustrated. Any sales model that doesn’t give the customer clear answers makes them feel like something is being hidden. Or in this case, that the sales person is incompetent – even if they aren’t.
I thought of that too. Actually, today over lunch I read the part in Entreleadership that talks about doing sales well by answering questions with questions 🙂
Maybe he was trained for that – but it sounds to me as – No commitment! Either he didn’t like ANYTHING on the menu or was afraid to COMMIT to one item and say he liked one or two things!
Okay, SO I see I missed a fun day but I was actually out training on service, oddly enough. Chris try this one, but pick the crowd you do it with as some people may be bothered by it. Have the same conversation, explain what you like, narrow it down to a range, or 3 items but pick one or two key ingredients you want and ask them to just order for you. They will refuse at times but just tell them you can’t make up your mind, it all sounds so inviting, I know I want x (sausage and or noodles, etc) and see what you get. Oddly enough the x ingredient rarely makes it to the plate and generally you don’t get anything you talked about. When it comes, even if you suspected you would get the steak and a fish sandwich comes just smile and be happy. Lastly don’t be shocked at all if your tables food arrives and they come back with “does one of those look good, our chef said they would make it real quick for you but I couldn’t decide on what to order you.”
The best service people have always been the ones who walk the line well. Don’t: get too chummy or flirt with meforget to being me drink refills oftenget frustrated when you don’t know somethingshow contempt for your place of employmentDo:be a real personbe cool and complement or joke with my kidsact like you enjoy serving me, instead of trying to earn the tipbend the “rules”accept fault if you mess up, and make it up to me if needed
I had an experience last week that reminds me of this. A newer restaurant opened downtown. I had gone once and had a pretty good experience. So this time I took my wife, children, and my Aunt out for dinner. We waited almost 20 minutes at the table before anyone even acknowledged us. We were talking, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Then the waiter finally comes over and says, since you’ve been waiting so long, I will go ahead and get your drink orders and food orders going. “Ok”, we said.Then he proceeds to tell us that their fryer is broken so almost half of the menu is off limits. Again, we said fine, we will just order non-fried food. And we did.Then another 20 minutes later drinks arrived at the same time as our food. At this point kids were getting frustrated, my Aunt was getting frustrated and my tolerance for less than great food was very low. And guess what? Much of the food was inedible. We asked for replacements and basically got the same thing in return.The worst part about this was that the place was empty. There were literally 10 tables and at least 10 servers. Then the CLo moment happened. We realized that the owner had been socializing with a couple of tables in the corner the entire time! It was like he didn’t even see the mess that was happening right in front of him.Here’s the thing…I could have let that all go IF there was a comment card system in place so that I knew that my experience could help make things better. But because there was not, I walked away without a word, knowing that Apple bees would be a better bet next time. And it would be a lot cheaper.
You resisted the uurge to “Educate” her didn’t you?
Maybe I’m just extra irritable at the moment, but I would feel like leaving without ordering, after that conversation. :)My example of bad customer service isn’t really similar…but it’s definitely bad customer service. My husband got a discount on travel costs for our honeymoon by signing us up to view a timeshare. We went knowing we weren’t buying. The lady was nice enough while showing, but when it came to “pressuring” us to buy…she sat there acting like she was going to cry, while the next person trying to convince us to buy tried to guilt us into the purchase by saying the original lady depended on people like us to feed her kids. WHAT!?!?
Let’s say the waiter reccomended something. You selected that item. Turns out it has dairy in it. Suprisingly you are lactose intollerant and while running to the bathroom, you slip and fall and knock over the cash register which falls on the foot of the cashier.Now you get sued. Better off picking out your own food. Just sayin’.
Well it happens. At times. I have experienced similar incidents. I believe such behavior stems from the unimpressive cultural ethos of the organization. When the tone at the top sets the right pitch, I believe customer service has less propensity to fail.
Yes, yes, yes! I have experienced customer service like this! You just know that the employee is only there for a check and doesn’t have the slightest of how to serve the customers. Of course, the owner of the restaurant should bear some responsibility on this – there should be scripts in place where each day the waiter knows exactly what he/she will recommend that day – and HOW. Even PRACTICING how they will describe the dish! But with no training or leadership, then they respond as they did with you.
It just occurred to me that the server might have felt for any recommendation they made to you they would have to take personal responsibility if you didn’t like it! In other words, they recommend the Jambalaya and you hate it – they might think you would blame them! Who knows – but maybe?
Maybe not the best reaction but this made me laugh hysterically for about five minutes before I recovered, explained myself to the rest of the office, and sobered up.
I couldn’t agree with you more: customer service (‘service’ being the go-to word here) is about making sure your CUSTOMER is satisfied, not ‘how many customers can I serve in an hour and then forget about’. We run into this problem quite a bit: the misunderstanding of what it means to ‘serve’ the customer. It’s one of our more popular mystery shopping scenarios, asked for by a variety of clients.
Great article, thanks for sharing.
Now that I love to hear!! Especially the part about having to explain yourself to the rest of the office. I feel like that’s my life. 🙂