Customer Service: Reconsider Who Your Customers Are

I was party to a discussion once where a supervisor was complaining that she had problems getting face time with her manager. The manager responded, defensively “Well the customer comes first and when I’m busy with a customer everything else just has to wait.” Fair enough, on the face of it, but does everything mean everybody too? And who exactly is the customer?

Most of us understand “customer” to mean the person who pays us to provide a service to them. We all realize that great service is one of the enticements to keeping our customers happy. But whose job is that, yours alone? If you work with a team, the responsibility rests with the entire team to provide great service to your external customers. This becomes patently impossible if the team are not serving one another effectively internally.

There could be many reasons why our supervisor may need face time with her manager. It may be advice, awaiting approval in order to proceed, essential feedback, disciplinary issues or a multitude of other things. What is critical here is that the manager does not view his supervisor as his customer, and certainly not as a priority.

Why is it important to view your colleagues as customers? For starters, you spend more time with them that you do with your external customers. Secondly, you rely on them to perform certain vital functions that will lead to customer satisfaction. This is because you yourself can not do everything – that’s why there’s the team.

In a work sense the internal customer should be regarded as more important than an external customer. Yes, you read that right. Everyone in your organization needs to understand that the external customer is very important, but that the internal customer is even more important. You may not have chosen to work with your colleagues – they were hired for their talents and expertise, not because they’re your friends. In a successful work environment we learn to work with a diverse group of people whom we may not naturally gravitate towards as friends – but we need them anyway. They are critical to our success. And therefore we need to set aside enough time for them so that they have the tools, the authority and the confidence to do what is expected of them. That includes, of course, dazzling the external customer with superb, friendly and efficient service.

There is of course the benefit too that people who feel acknowledged tend to be more helpful, friendly, cooperative and… yes, productive. This is because acknowledgement is addictive.

Without our external customers our organisation has no need to exist. But without a team to ensure that those customers are served properly, you have no mechanism to provide that service. So, your team members are your core customers. Your immediate team is your personal responsibility. If you are part of a team, you need to nurture and protect your relationships within that team.

“A customer is someone with whom one has dealings”.

This definition is very simple, but it’s also also quite profound, and has broad implications. So before making the noble statement “The customer comes first”, first reconsider who your customers are and who may be coming second or last as a result of putting a particular customer first.

There’s only so much that you can do on your own. Your internal customers are the people who will ensure that the job gets done.

Email, Phone Or Live Chat Support – How to Best Serve Your Customers

In technical support there are generally 3 options for providing the customer support services needed by your customer: Email, Live Chat, and Phone. Each one has its own advantages depending on the nature of your products or services. As a rule of thumb, you should choose the support system(s) that will make your customer most comfortable and satisfied. But how do you know which form is best for your company? Here are some advantages of email support, live chat support and phone support.

Email Support:

Cheapest form of support

– No need for expensive telephone equipment or land lines

– Best for companies with global customers

– Free for customer to receive help

Does not need to be 24/7 support

Will lead to reduced number of phone or live chat contacts

– Customers who have requests or need solutions that do not need to be solved immediately can use this form

Provides a clear written solution to questions or requests

– Can clearly explain instructions

Easily recorded

– Possible to transfer conversation if further help is needed

– Can improve on quality by reviewing conversations

Flexible time frame

– Does not require immediate response

Lessens the need for native speakers

– Foreign accents are no longer a problem

Live Chat Support:

Cheaper form of support

– No need for expensive telephone equipment or land lines

– Best for companies with global customers

– Free for customer to receive help

Provides real time support

– Solutions can be provided immediately

– No “on hold” waiting time

Creates trust and reliability

– Customers feel confident that they can receive help immediately

– Customers feel that serving them is important to you

Customer representative receive all necessary information

Can ask the right questions and receive information immediately

Easily recorded

– Possible to transfer conversation if further help is needed

– Can improve on quality by reviewing conversations

Saves time

– Representatives can handle more than one customer at a time

Lessens the need for native speakers

Foreign accents are no longer a problem

Phone Support:

Provides real time support

– Solutions can be provided immediately

Creates trust and reliability

– Customers feel confident that they can receive help immediately

– Customers feel that you appreciate their business

Customer care representative receive all necessary information

– Can ask the right questions and receive information immediately

Customers feel comfortable

– Most customers are most comfortable with phone support

– Helpful to people who are less technologically savvy

Personable

– A helpful friendly voice can calm irritated customers

Secure

– Does not depend on the internet to provide customer support

How you provide technical support services depends largely on your clientele. In most cases, providing a multitude of customer care support service options is best so that the customer can choose what they are most comfortable with.

Restaurant Customer Service – How to Get Repeat Customers

What is the customer’s eye?

It is what the customer observes, whether it is a pleasant sight that is going to cause that customer to say WOW, or an unpleasant sight that will create a negative attitude. While your customers are waiting for service they are seated or standing and have time to observe your operations. Your guest sees everything, whether it is clean or dirty. Your guest can also hear everything such as: cooks arguing in the kitchen or the manager yelling at an employee. Do you really want to expose your dirty laundry to your customers?

In the restaurant industry you need to crush your competitors. In today’s economy it is tough for restaurants to turn a profit and survive. It’s not rocket science to figure out how to survive and even to succeed. It is important for you to have some experience in the restaurant industry in order to understand what needs to be implemented in your restaurant. If you don’t have that experience, then hire people who have experience and will commit to your success.

Your customer’s feedback about your restaurant is crucial to your success. After all, how are you going to know if your staff is doing the right things for the right reasons unless someone is observing them? Your customers see and hear everything while they are in your restaurant. What your customers see and hear can make a huge impact on repeat business.

The following neglected areas will negatively impact repeat business:

  • Parking lot: Cigarettes and trash all over the parking lot. Trash cans smelly and full.
  • Hostess Area: Fingerprints are all over the front doors. There is no one at the door to greet the customer. Employees are walking past the guest and they are not acknowledging them.
  • Restrooms: Toilets and urinals are filthy. There are no paper towels or soap and the trash cans are overflowing. Baby changing station does not have sanitation wipes and is dirty.ยท
  • Dining Room: Dirty Tables and condiments dirty and empty. The floor is filthy and there are visible stains on the carpets. Service is slow or the servers are chatting with each other and not paying attention to customers. Servers don’t know the menu and can’t answer questions.
  • Kitchen:Long check times. Cold food. Undercooked or overcooked food. Cooks talking too loud and the guests can hear the cooks using profanity. Food isn’t prepared and all the menu items aren’t available for customers to order.

I am not saying that these things occur in your establishment, but what I am stating is that there are some restaurants that may have one or more of these issues. This is creating a negative outcome resulting in dwindling repeat business.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see what they see and hear what they hear, the customer’s eye.Train your managers to be proactive and head off the problems before they happen or get out of hand. Eliminate all eyesores before the guest sees them.; Make believe you are the guest: start your inspection from the parking lot. Then do a complete walk-through of the entire restaurant and correct issues as you proceed. Create a list of things that require attention and delegate them to your employees. Remember to do follow-up to ensure the task that you delegated was completed properly.

Managers should be on the floor during all peak times. They should be giving direction to the employees and conducting table visits to ensure that the guest is fully satisfied. The managers should be on the floor 90% of the time and in the office 10% of the time.

Here is the cool part. Do you want to improve your customer service? If you have answered yes, then the next part is relatively easy providing your managers are on the same page as you are and that they without fail correct any eyesores prior to any peak period.

There are many great resources to help improve your restaurant operation such as: Restaurant forms and checklists.

  • Restaurant front of the house checklists: Use an opening checklist to ensure that your restaurant is ready prior to the restaurant opening for the day. Use a closing checklist to help close the restaurant properly and to set up the opening shift. One way to keep your restrooms clean is to use a restaurant restroom checklist which ensures the restrooms are cleaned and stocked throughout the shifts. There are many different restaurant forms that can be applied to keep a clean, stocked and organized shift.
  • Restaurant server forms: I would recommend is the server steps of service form. This form will help increase overall customer service because it focuses on WOW service from the very minute the customer enters your restaurant all the way up until the customer departs your restaurant. You can even use the server test or steps of service quiz to keep your servers knowledgeable.
  • Restaurant kitchen checklists: A Restaurant Kitchen Checklist is a fantastic tool to be used to prepare the kitchen prior to any meal period. The manager will conduct a walk-through in your kitchen looking for expired products, date dot use, and proper rotation of products. The manager also will ensure that the kitchen is fully stocked and that all foods are at the proper serving or storage temperature.

If for some reason you are having difficulty or are frustrated in trying to turn your restaurant around, then you may want to seek out a professional restaurant consultant to help facilitate your policies and procedures. The restaurant consultant can also guide you in implementing quality training that you help you turn a profit.