How can you offer the best customer service? Customer service is all about communication - how do you communicate with your staff? How do your staff communicate with your guests and with each other?
1. Training and sharing information
Fantastic customer service all begins with training and sharing information. I cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of training your team- not just once, not just before your business opens or when a new person joins the team. But every day, every week, every month - you should always be training. Yes, this is an investment, but the ROI will be exponential if you train effectively.
Also, employees who feel that you are investing in them will perform better, your company culture will be elevated, and your guests will experience the benefits. By communicating the importance of training and encouraging your staff to participate, they will feel valued and cared for, and they will then value and care for your guests.
Training should start with induction into the business, then be section specific. Everyone should be taught as much as possible about the product and the standards, not only on paper but through tasting and experiencing it.
Soft skills should also be trained in order to have a well-rounded team of people running your business:
• Communication Skills
• Problem Solving Skills
• Work Ethic
• Flexibility/ Adaptability
• Interpersonal Skills
These are all essential sessions that can be done around service. But training can also be as simple as holding a daily briefing before each service - communicating issues, potential challenges, celebrating successes, and building excitement and positive energy for the shift.
2. Empowering your staff
Through effective training and by building trust in your team, you can empower them to make decisions within the business, which makes them feel valued. Empower staff to offer solutions to guests who are not entirely satisfied. If issues are solved effectively and immediately, this allows the guest to feel taken care of, and they will leave feeling good about your restaurant, no matter what the original problem was.
3. Build a culture of care
Create an environment where you care about each team member. Thank them at the end of each shift, greet each of them upon arrival, know everyone’s names, ask about their dogs, kids, grandparents - etc. They will feel valued and carry that forward when caring for the guests.
Similarly, allow staff to develop personal connections with guests. Guests will feel valued and return time after time, perhaps asking for a specific server, but mostly because they feel like they are welcome and recognised.
4. No scripts or obvious upselling
Once staff are adequately trained, they can have natural conversations with guests, leading them through their experience and guiding them to order items that will enhance their meals, and suit their needs, requirements or budgets. If everyone uses the same script, servers may as well be replaced by devices or AI.
If staff are not properly trained, and they upsell chips with a dish that already has potatoes on the plate, your guest will feel cheated and not have a great experience. They will complain about how full they are and that the restaurant was overpriced. Staff should be able to “upsell” indirectly by knowing that a side of broccoli would compliment their main meal and enhance the dinner. Generally, guests will feel they’ve then had a well-balanced meal and feel that it was a good value for money.
5. The fundamentals
Of course, you must never forget the fundamentals of excellent service - be friendly, smile, say thank you, always be courteous and show respect, be responsive, listen to feedback and use it. These are basics that should build part of your company values, and everyone should live and breathe them.
You must always, always listen - listen to what guests say, in your business and in reviews, listen to what your staff say, listen to what competitors say. When you actively listen to people in your business, you will learn everything you need to know about your business - how to grow, change and develop it, or how to keep it the same and where you are doing well.
Ultimately, communication is the key to excellent customer service. A concept that concludes this post by Peter Drucker is that the key to communication is what the listener does.