In today’s competitive dining industry, a successful restaurant has more than just good food. According to a Customer Service Report, 55% of respondents became a customer of a company because of high customer service. Most importantly, the study also determined 82% of respondents stopped doing business with a company due to bad customer service. Exceptionally good customer service can create a loyal customer base, but bad customer service can derail an otherwise successful restaurant.
1. FRIENDLY SERVICE
Friendly and approachable service is the cornerstone of a quality customer service experience. Customers want to feel appreciated and have their mood lifted every time they make a purchase. Customers are more likely to have a personal connection to the establishment if the employees are welcoming. Signs of friendly service includes consistent and genuine smiling by all employees. Smiling not only increases customer satisfaction but can also increase employee confidence by 10%, increases the positivity in the workplace and creates more resilient employees. Another tactic is listening intently to the customer and not interrupting. Consumers don’t want to feel rushed or disrespected when facilitating a transaction. Finally, greeting diners right when they walk in the door immediately creates a positive and inviting atmosphere.
2. KNOWLEDGEABLE STAFF
Customers expect employees to be friendly, but also knowledgeable. They want servers to be able to answer any questions about the menu, payment or any part of the restaurant’s operation. A clear and familiar knowledge of the menu is so crucial to a positive customer service experience. Customers really value the opinions of staff on their personal recommendations, which is only possible with a concrete understanding of the menu. Menu knowledge is also a crucial part of customer service because it can be a safety issue. Customers with severe allergies or dietary restrictions expect servers to be well-informed about the menu item. Finally, employees who know the menu, can provide personalized recommendations for guests which can result in upselling and increased profits.
3. BE AVAILABLE
Employees are there to serve the customers and this should be explicit in the daily operations of the restaurant. It’s can be practical to immediately greet customers when they enter the establishment, so the customers feel important. Also, especially when the restaurant is busy, it is important for all employees to look engaged and active. Another important metric is for employees to make sure customers and satisfied throughout their entire dining experience. This also includes having a clear way for consumers to give feedback. Be responsive to criticism and have either a designated contact, an online forum or a dedicated phone number in which customers can communicate feedback directly and effectively.
4. MAKE IT EASY
Customers want their experience to be easy! They don’t want to feel overwhelmed or confused when entering an establishment. Offering valuable customer service includes eliminating jargon, simplifying the layout and improving readability of a menu. Offering too many convoluted and complicated options can overwhelm the customer and they will be less likely to return. A study found that clear communication reduces consumer service complaints. A Harvard Business review study found that companies that provide a simple buying process are 86% more likely to be considered by consumers and 115% more likely to be recommended to others. Tell the consumer exactly where the food will be ready for pickup, exactly how long the wait will be, and make provide clear instructions on how to check out. Customers like to be told specifics about the operations in a restaurant, so they don’t have to guess.
5. DON’T MAKE THEM WAIT
Having a long line can often be a good sign for an up and coming business but it may have negative repercussions for the customer service experience. Consumers detest waiting in long lines, in fact one study showed that people are only willing to wait 14 min in line before leaving. This can lead to a substantial loss of potential revenue if the long line is constant. Being in the back of the line also makes consumers anxious.Consistent long lines have ramifications that extend farther than simply losing one customer. The memory of waiting in line at a certain establishment sticks with the customer for a long time This results in a reduction of ROC (return of the customer) and they are less likely to recommend the business to others.
There are a few ways to minimize line fatigue and maximize customer satisfaction. First, simply reducing wait time through increase in registers and staff or by offering digital kiosks, is the most streamlined approach to reducing wait time. Also, this study shows that unoccupied time feels worse than occupied time, so keeping waiting customers entertained can increase enjoyment. This can include interesting decorations in the restaurant, for example the walls of every Jimmy Johns are covered in humorous and engaging signage, or by offering samples.
6. GIVE CREDENCE TO COMPLAINTS
Successfully dealing with unhappy and bothersome customers is sign of an effective customer service team. Using the CARP method can be an effective way of diffusing the situation and satisfying the customer. Control the situation. Acknowledge the dilemma. Refocus the conversation. Problem-solve so the customer leaves happy. The established motto “The customer is always right” can truly be an effective mindset in order to have impressive customer service. Never belittle customer complaints; offering small refunds or compensation for an unsatisfactory meal can go a long way in fixing complaints and creating long-term loyalty and respect for the business.
A personalized experience greatly increases customer service satisfaction. A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, found that waiters received a 23% increase in tips simply by giving customers a mint along with the check. The implications of this study are much broader than simple mints, it’s shows that customers are eager for customized service. The study itself said “The post-purchase follow up with genuine concern for the customer (“I thought you might like more mints…”) connected with people more than the additional pieces of candy would imply.”
However, personalization is most effective when an establishment can determine the purpose of the customers’ visit. This most effective modern form of personalization extends past the physical doors of the restaurant. By using digital data, businesses can give customers the personal experience they want. According to a recent study, “the best restaurant brands are spending 50%, and even as much as 90% of their marketing budgets on digital tools.” Compiling important data on consumers can come from offering free Wi-Fi, website cookies, or a personalized checkout experience through kiosk technology.
8. SURPRISE THE CONSUMER
Similar to personalization, great customer service can be created by going above and beyond with the consumer. Customers love positive surprises and for their expectations to be exceeded. Zappos, known for their exemplary customer service, automatically upgrades all purchases to priority shipping without mentioning it at the checkout page. Customers feel appreciated and one simple gesture can translate to a superior customer service experience. One easy way restaurants can implement this idea is by overstating waiting time. If the wait is 10 min, the hostess can say 20 min and the customer will be delighted when they get seated 10 min earlier than expected.
Consistency is one of the most important parts of a quality customer service experience. Employees that only smile occasionally or are helpful once in a while can completely destroy the reputation of a brand. Consistently implementing the strategies mentioned above leads to a truly stellar customer service experience. Customers are more likely to remember negative interactions rather than positive ones. It is imperative that restaurants are always going above and beyond. This is most easily created through effective training and leadership. It is important that management treats lower level employees with the same respect and friendliness that is expected in customer interactions. Creating a clear, mainstream training program can help. As well as reinstating the importance of customer service in every interaction throughout the organization. Consistency in accuracy of orders is also imperative for a successful restaurant. Give the customer exactly what they ordered in order for them to be satisfied.
The information age is truly transforming how consumers interact with the food industry. Technology can also help with some of the things mentioned above, including reducing wait times and customers expect digital support and infrastructure from brands. This includes online ordering, Grubhub, Ubereats etc. Loyalty programs are also an effective way to facilitate customer service that extends into the digital realm. According to Forrester Report, members of successful loyalty programs are more likely to recommend the brand to others.Increase of technology in the brick and mortar storefront, including tv and kiosks can improve customer experiences by entertaining and also inherently offering personalization services.