The holidays are fast approaching. Few times are more important for restaurant owners and managers. The holidays season can not only help make your financial year a huge success, but it’s also a prime opportunity to gain new customers who will return year-round.
However, if your employees fail at customer service and are not helpful, knowledgeable, or unpleasant, you not only lose customers and lose future sales, but you also risk the chance of getting slammed on social media.
More business is lost due to poor service and poor treatment than poor product. Restaurants spend big dollars on advertising, PR, and marketing trying to convince us to eat at their venues, but if that contact is not handled just right by greeters, waiters, buss staff, and more, all that money is wasted. It’s crucial that restaurants know and care about their interactions with the customer. Customers service failures not only impact sales and return business, but can also damage your brand and image.
So, what can restaurant owners and managers do to encourage excellent customer service during the beyond the holiday season? Here are six tips that will help up your game and provide customer service that will generate holiday sales and repeat customers in the new year.
1. Train Now
Start some sort of training now, before the holiday shoppers arrive. If you have some customer service training in place, review with your employees and those seasonal workers you are hiring for the holidays. If you don’t have a customer service plan in place, hire an expert to spend a day training your staff. And if you have no time to train, remind your employees that “Thank you for shopping with us,” “We appreciate your business,” and “Have a wonderful holiday” go a long way, costs nothing, and leave a positive lasting impression.
2. Discuss Performance
Meet with your staff at the end of each day. Discuss went wrong and what went right. Make sure any customer service concerns are addressed immediately and solutions are made so customers walk away satisfied.
3. Prepare Your Team for Difficult Guests
Prepare your employees with a “mental” suit of armor. Make sure they’re aware all customers won’t be so nice and some will be difficult. Your employees will be on the front lines of occasional customer abuse. Warn them in advance, and make sure that when those incidents happen that your employees will still treat the customer with politeness and respect. We all know customers aren’t always right, but they do remain the customers.
3. Teach Employees to Care
Your employees need to care. While knowledge of a product is important, it’s just as vital that your sales people show they care, and want to help the customer with a purchase. A friend of mine went into a restaurant only to find the hostess busy texting. She was more concerned with her phone than properly greeting the diner. Not good! Greet each customer as if they were bringing a million dollars of business to your store.
4. Stay Positive
Had a rough day? Don’t take it out on the customer. And if the customer is in a foul mood, all the more reason to turn on your charm. Stay upbeat and happy and don’t let your rough day or the customer’s bad mood impact the service you provide.
5. Leave a Great Last Impression
Make sure your last words to the customer is not “No Problem” when they say “Thank you.” Use the gold standard of “You're welcome.” No problem is a big problem when it comes to positive customer service.
6. Don’t Forget to Smile
Finally, the most important customer service win: smile! Don’t let your employees greet shoppers without a smile. A smile leaves a positive, friendly first impression.
So as the holidays quickly approach, in addition to hiring seasonal workers and planning for
big sales, also remember that if you don’t provide excellent customer service and leave a pleasant experience with your customers, you’ll lose an opportunity to gain and retain valued customers forever.
Nancy Friedman is one of the country’s top customer service experts and the president of The Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training Inc. in St. Louis. Friedman helps businesses improve their consumer relations by training them to communicate better with their customers and co-workers.