My family and I just returned from an eight-day 1300-mile road trip. During those eight days we spent way too much time in fast food restaurants and other retail establishments. Here are my observations from a customer´s perspective.
1. The customer service experience starts with a clean establishment, inside and out. Make sure the tables are bussed on a regular basis and that we don´t have to stop and ask your staff to do it. Do not use water and bleach to wipe your tables down. Do you realize how bad the lingering odor is? Oh, and make sure the busboy or girl uses one rag to wipe off the table and another to wipe off the chairs. Yea–we notice.
2. Smile when you see us. Make us feel welcome. Even though you and I may only communicate with each other for one minute or so, that´s time enough to leave a memorable impression with me that may cause me to start some positive word-of-mouth about your business. This is especially true when you see a tired person or family walk up to your counter (as is the case with many hotel and motel desk clerks).
3. Empower your staff to be flexible enough to be able to fix things when they go wrong. Sara Jayne, at the Shreveport Holiday Inn, couldn´t get us a rollaway bed (my boys don´t like to touch each other when they´re sleeping) but her solution exceeded my expectations. I went from “might stay there the next time I´m in town” to “I definitely will stay there the next time.”
4. Offer a quality product or service. No matter how friendly your staff is, if the food is prepared wrong or the product doesn´t work as advertised, I´m not only not going to come back, I´m going to tell others about my negative experience.
5. Finally, if you run a restaurant or service station, make sure your staff keeps your rest rooms clean. If the soap dispenser is empty, how do I know your staff is preparing food with clean hands? A dirty rest room can undo the highest quality and friendliest wait staff. McDonald´s has a saying: “Quality, Service, Cleanliness, Value.” Chain-wide the two constants here are quality and value. Big Mac´s taste the same in Honolulu and in Miami. The prices are usually very similar. Where local managers can set themselves apart from their competitors is in the remaining two, “Service” and “Cleanliness.”
Over at Church Of The Customer, I listened to a recent podcast where Ben and Jackie talked about “hiring for attitude, training for skill.” My experience with chain restaurants of all types has been that the most variance is in service. Hire friendly, smiling people to serve your customers, then train them in your policies and procedures. Hold them accountable for keeping your restaurant clean even when you´re out of town on vacation. Regards, Glenn