7 Ways to Better Customer Service

Tips on Better Customer Services

You are a bar manager, owner or operator who knows that great customer service is key to the success of your business.  You want your staff to provide it and your establishment to have a reputation for it.  Unfortunately, too often your staff fall short of providing the kind of service your guests expect.

Here’s some tough love -- You need to quit blaming all of the lousy service encounters in your bar on your staff and evaluate your own efforts and their effectiveness.   It’s your deal and if it’s not as good as you want it to be, it’s your fault.  Here are seven things for you to do to make it better.

1. Hire the Right People

According to Scott Gross in his book, Positively Outrageous Service, 10% of the populations are natural servers, 85% are indifferent to providing great customer service and the other 5% just want to be left alone.  This is one of my favorite books and these are my favorite statistics from it.  I don’t know if they are accurate, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is their indication that there is a small portion of the population equipped to provide exceptional service with little coaching or training.  Your recruitment efforts should focus on identifying them and hiring them.  Check out my article from June to find out how.  How to Find the Best Staff | Nightclub & Bar

2. Train for Service Excellence

Another important conclusion to be drawn from Gross’ statistics is that the great majority of your applicant pool will not be naturally capable of providing outstanding service.  He characterizes this largest portion of the population as indifferent but points out that with the right direction, they can approach the kind of service acumen possessed by the naturals.  It is incumbent upon you, then, to provide this direction by training specifically for service excellence.

Training normally focuses on the systems and procedures in use in an operation, the correct assumption being that the specific manner in which you deliver your product is unique and must be taught to new employees.   It is also correct to assume that your expectations of service excellence and its delivery are unique and also must be taught, especially to the 85%.

Your service training program needs to be basic, specific and comprehensive.  Among other behaviors, stress the importance of smiling, making eye contact, the greeting, and saying please and thank you.  Provide techniques for dealing with difficult customers and fixing mistakes and instruction about when to involve a manager.  Encourage the use of certain words and phrases and identify others that should be avoided.

3. Empower Your Staff

Giving your bar staff responsibility to make decisions based on their good judgment can have the dual effect of improving their performance and job satisfaction while at the same time improving service delivery.  They take ownership of service encounters because you have given them the power to determine their outcomes.

Not all employees are able or willing to take on this additional responsibility – If your plan to deliver exceptional service includes empowering your staff in this way, the unable and unwilling need to be eradicated from your operation.  Those who are willing and able will need some specific instructions regarding what is expected.  This kind of responsibility is very likely new and uncomfortable for many of them and your guidance will turn this discomfort into confidence.

4. Correct, Reinforce, Reward

The specific behaviors, language and techniques associated with exceptional customer service are unknown to even the most experienced service providers.  The authority to make decisions at the front lines of service is similarly foreign to most.  Effective training begins to impart some knowledge.  Regardless of how good your training is, your staff will need to “practice” these new concepts and see what fits and what doesn’t.  Your feedback, sometimes negative, sometimes positive, but always constructive, is a critical component of their mastery of these new constructs.

5. Serve as a Model for Behavior

Your staff will look to you to determine those behaviors that are acceptable and those that are not.  Your treatment of your customers will significantly influence the manner in which your staff treat them.  In the name of exceptional customer service you expect your staff to consider the needs of your guests as the top priority.  You expect them to make an exceptional effort to meet and exceed these needs.  Do you?  Do your actions and efforts reinforce or run counter to this expectation?  You have a business to run and a number of important tasks to complete to do so successfully.  Focusing on tasks at the expense of the customer sends a message to your staff about what’s really important.  They are watching…so act right.

6. Find out how you are Doing

Don’t assume that what you are doing is working or is even what the customer is after.  Ask them in a formal way through the deployment of surveys.  Technology now makes it convenient to get feedback from your customers and this feedback is an excellent way to reinforce the efficacy of the efforts you are making, identify those areas that need improvement or even identify a service effort that is effective but part of a package that the customer doesn’t really value.

7. Look Elsewhere

The first six ways to better customer service on this list focus on people -- the manager, the employee and the customer – and the critical roles they play in the delivery of customer service and the efforts they can make to make it truly exceptional.  Number 7 isn’t specifically about people but can have a tremendous effect on the results they are able to achieve.  The people in your establishment need to be operating within systems that don’t hinder their efforts.  Operators are responsible for making sure this is not the case.

Systems that work well support employees in providing great customer service.  Systems that don’t work well require employees to make an extra effort just to overcome the systemic deficiency.  Equipment that constantly breaks down, poorly designed work spaces, or badly laid out POS screens can all make it difficult to achieve the goal at hand and lead to regular frustration among staff working hard to do so.

Here’s an example drawn from my own experience.  I am working the bar.  A late table in the dining room orders a bottle of wine.  The manager left an hour ago.  She is the only one with keys to the wine room.  Short of kicking in the door to the wine room and regardless of the previous efforts of all of the staff that have come into contact with these guests, this “system” of securing the wine inventory has made it impossible to deliver really exceptional service, to meet or exceed the expectations of this party.  It is a frustrating system that should be evaluated and altered in an effort to provide an adequate level of control while supporting the efforts of the staff to delight.

I kicked the door in.

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