In the last few years as a Restaurant Manager, one of the areas I consciously and consistently improved was customer service. These days, I do not engage clients as much even though I am still actively involved in operations. To some extent, I miss that and I have found out the reason why – I love people. I hardly see customer service as a department because I have always believed it is a collective responsibility of any business that involves some level of human to human relationship. Sometimes, I marvel at professionals especially in the hospitality industry who view customer service as a chore, not realizing that the customer they consider a “ burden” is the ONLY reason for their existing job. That is why I wrote this post-to redefine the notion of service and to put some premium on the people who make our businesses thrive. I would not be able to exhaust this topic in one post so this is the premier and hopefully there will be two more.
Let’s establish first of all that if you relate with human beings on any level, customer service is inalienable to what you do. Thus, the doctor needs to excel at customer service as much as the waitress in the restaurant. In other words, customer service should not only be at its best in the hospitality industry. In defining who the customer is, I realize most of the books don’t always give us the full picture. The books give us a list of theories without supporting these theories with what happens in reality. I have learnt through experience that no amount of theory can suffice an actual human to human relationship. They may work until we have to practice what we have learnt. For example, when we stand face to face with a furious customer who will not budge to any of the jargons we are accustomed to. Here is my favorite; “Sorry about that Sir.”
Customer service should not only be at its best in the hospitality industry.
I realize that the word customer is not as complex as we have perceived. The customer is simply you, reflected in another unique personality. This is the true definition of a customer. You. You are the customer. This means you treat the customer in the same way you would like to be treated. It also means no matter how intractable the customer is, he is never the enemy nor the burden. By all means, as a professional, you will come across a customer who will prove to be a thorn in your flesh (I hope to talk about this more in subsequent posts ) yet this does not change the fact that the customer remains the main character. Always.
Service goes beyond providing a good product. Service is giving people an experience that will always be worth remembering. You give people a great experience by anticipating what is important to them and providing that. It goes beyond selling, buying and saying thank you. It is a firm desire to see people truly satisfied with what you have to offer. Therefore the most basic tenet of service is the love for your fellow human being. While managing the restaurant, I would interact with at least twenty customers on a daily basis. I wasn’t always happy with the response from angry customers but I was aware of the standards of excellence of the business and I couldn’t fail at that. It is not an easy task dealing with different personalities however it is rewarding and very fulfilling when you are able to make another person feel special.
Service goes beyond providing a good product. Service is giving people an experience that will always be worth remembering. You give people a great experience by anticipating what is important to them and providing that.
In your quest to provide excellent service, you must keep in mind that your business is your sphere of influence and as a leader, if you are not providing people with the best experience possible, you are not going to exert much influence. I love this quote by Joe Bastianich, a successful Italian restaurateur. Joe states, “The restaurateur’s biggest enemy is his ego. Once you believe that you are more important than the customer, you’ve lost the plot.” I would reiterate that it is not just for the restaurateur, but for everyone who engages clients on any level.
Cheers to making more meaningful impact in our business relationships.