We had a cold, wet and stormy winter this year and I spent the whole winter wanting to go somewhere dry and warm!
But if that was not to be, then I hankered for some comfort food – and what’s more comforting than a plate stacked with warm, soft pancakes drizzled, nay, swimming, in maple syrup?
Have I got your attention now? Feel the warmth and the love? Well, that’s how a really good customer service system makes me feel because a good one can wrap itself around your customers and make them feel like they are eating a big plate of lovely warm pancakes and spoonfuls of maple syrup!
Let’s see how a customer service system can be better than maple syrup on warm pancakes.
Before we do that though, just remember a time when you did not get good customer service.
Let me tell you of an example and see if it also strikes a chord with you.
Let’s face it, we live in a food culture now don’t we? With this era of celebrity chefs, TV shows like Masterchef, and the continuing celebration of finding good food, many of us spend date-nights, good times with friends and even coffee-break chats just going to or talking about good restaurants. We seek the next best eating experience, right? In fact, some of this near-religious experience goes way over the top with the celebrated chefs having egos the size of Western Australia, where sometimes we feel that it is a privilege to be able to go to their restaurants.
And herein lies the problem. The celebrity chefs and chefs written up and winning awards forget that it should be their privilege that they get to attract customers, not the other way around. So tell me if you’ve had this experience.
You hear of a well-written up restaurant. The chef has received great reviews, the restaurant is on a busy nightlife strip, the place is the place to be seen, so you do the obvious and you book a table. That’s perhaps when you get the first inkling that not everything may be working smoothly, perhaps the experience of telephoning a reservation was met with an unfriendly voice? But it’s your first time so you give it the benefit of the doubt and you put it down to your calling at a busy time.
Then when you arrive, you spend several minutes standing next to the “Please-Wait-To-Be-Seated” sign listening to the too-loud music. At least a couple of waitstaff walk past you looking harried and busy – and ignoring you. After one of them walk past and actually looks and smiles at you, but still walks past (close call!), the Hostess shows up and greets you – with a smile – and says “Your table isn’t ready yet, you can have a drink at the bar, and I’ll come and get you when it’s ready,” and then smiles and walks away.
OK, so where’s the bar? You see it and find your own way to it, struggle to find a spot in the crowd you can stand at and order a drink.
Five minutes after the time for your booking has passed and you are starting to get worried that the Hostess may never find you in this crush, they turn up and ask you to follow them. Of course, you couldn’t hear what they actually said in the loud music and crowd noise, but assume she will take you to your table because she turned and started walking away, fast, so you follow her to your table.
The restaurant is so modern and funky, using banquette seating and stools. They look great, but as you sit down, your first reaction that you might want to try this decor at home is squashed when you realise how uncomfortable this modern look is.
However, presented with the menu, the choices look good. The meals are well-described and all look interesting so you order.
When the food arrives, it is fabulous! Each dish is treated with respect to the ingredients and the presentation is imaginative and pretty. The prices are at the high end, but the quality deserves it.
In fact, let’s be clear, you enjoy your meal very much and agree with all the reviews you have read.
But when you leave, what is your overall reaction?
What businesses have to realise is that they are not there to sell their product, they are there to give the customer what the customer needs.
In this case, the restaurant is not there – believe it or not – to serve great food. It is there to give the customer an experience of a sublime night out with all that entails. If the restaurant was there to serve great food, it would simply be a take-away outlet with a remarkable kitchen!
This experience is not maple syrup on pancakes!
Customer service is about the whole experience.
In a restaurant, it is about what the customer needs to feel. In most restaurants, this does start with good food and wine, but it also includes how that food and that wine is wrapped up in holistic customer service. In a high-end restaurant, this means feeling welcome and being seen as a valued customer receiving a personal touch. The personal touch can simply be recognition of your name when you say you have a booking. In a high-end restaurant, it means an atmosphere of luxury where you can talk to your companions without shouting and the waitstaff is attentive but not obtrusive. It means background music that does not deafen you, it means comfortable chairs.
Now, in another type of restaurant, say a cheap but tasty noodle restaurant, the customer service is all about the authentic food wrapped in efficient service. At the lower end, you don’t expect to be greeted by name, the lights are turned up high and there is no music, the wait staff are polite but quick. You may feel a little rushed but you’re only there to get a quick tasty meal and go to the cinema anyway.
What this all means is that your product must be wrapped up in service systems that cater to what your market wants, and not just to the delivery of your great product. That’s why luxury goods retailers find it hard to sell their luxury goods online – their market values the personal service that goes with the luxury item, and this is hard to replicate online.
So, how do you create a customer service system that makes your customers feel like they are waking up on Sunday and being greeted by a warm plate of pancakes and maple syrup?
The key is in having a holistic system. That is, having a system and not making it up as you go along, and making sure it is holistic and not just about product delivery. This principle works for any industry in the world.
The first step is to work out exactly what your target market’s needs are. This means first identifying who your target market is, what demographic and psychographic characteristics typify them, and how your product meets their needs. This means you need to move past describing your product by its features and start to see it from the point of view of the customer as the benefits it can give them and how it satisfies their needs.
Once you can describe how your product meets your target market’s needs, you can then design your whole customer-service experience around it.
As in the above example, if your target market needs a healthy, delicious, quick meal, you design your physical infrastructure around well-lit efficiency using easily cleaned tables and chairs that don’t have to be too comfortable because they’ll only be there for a short time. You hire waitstaff who work quickly and train them to take orders quickly, deliver the food quickly, and clean up quickly. You design your kitchen to produce the right quality for the price and to do so efficiently and fast.
If, on the other hand, your target market needs the dining experience to ooh and ahh about you approach customer-service from a totally different angle. You work out what fits the bill physically, with mood lighting (that’s still light enough to read an artistically well-designed menu), music levels that the target market needs to feel that experience, comfortable tables and chairs to allow them to linger. You hire an experienced Maitre’d who remembers names and preferences from bookings, who is trained to walk people to bars and tables, who introduces you to your table waitstaff by name, who is experienced enough to keep an eye on the whole room and yet look available if you call. You hire waitstaff trained to serve as if you were their only customer that night, attentive to empty drinks (where you make your money!), who know the meals and can describe and offer advice on them.
So, understanding the customer’s needs and then designing the wraparound service, you make it into a system.
You start with each person’s position description and ensure that their objectives are spelled out. Who is to meet and greet in such a way that the customer feels valued? Who is to provide food and drinks and at what pace? Who is to prepare that food and at what quality to create what emotion?
You then take each person through their position duties and make sure that everything they do, they do the same way over and over again.
There should be a system for taking bookings, including a telephone answering script.
There should be a system to display bookings for staff to refer to easily.
There should be a system to set up the room, lights, music.
There should be a system to meet customers as they arrive, including a standard welcome script for different circumstances (like when your table is not ready), as well as a standard procedure for all circumstances (such as escorting them to the bar or table without losing contact because you are walking too fast!).
There should be a system to monitor the tables and a procedure to follow to make sure that as they finish drinks they are offered replacements.
And so on – there should be s system for everything that people do in your business!
Let me be clear that this system and proceduralising of actions works for every industry. I use the restaurant industry here just as an example.
Customer-service needs to be a system. You cannot afford to rely on how one or two experienced people provide good customer service. Everyone who works in your business must realise that everything they do is potentially part of customer service, even up to and including collecting debts and sending out bills.
Customer service is just one of the systems in your business. If you can automate good customer service you are on the way to success, but if you really want to grow a successful business that does not depend on your input in every situation, you really need to look at the systems and procedures of all your business systems. You need to pretend as if you are going to franchise your business so that every franchised outlet must look and behave exactly the same as you would now.
The eBook describes why you need to implement systems in your business, what value that brings to you and to the business, and how to do it. It’s invaluable reading for you: –
- if you feel that you’re working in your business all the time and can’t get away from it;
- if you see that your wraparound service does not do the quality of your product justice; and
- if you are always retraining new staff on how to do the same old thing.
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