I work at the sharp end of customer services. I spend my days thanking people for something. Often apologising for the lateness of something, whether its the delay for an appointment, a letter being held up, or more often than not a professional who is running late, because of the complexities of the job. I’m used to juggling things, and over the years I’ve honed the skills to avoid dropping those balls I’m furiously keeping in the air! So I know what you need to be a good customer service provider.
Above all you need to be attentive to the people who are your customers, and you need to keep your eye on all those balls your juggling. You also need to make sure your team are well trained, and you have rigorous Standard Operating Procedures . That way everyone is clear of their expectations and your not let down by someone who doesn’t understand what is expected of them.
Let me tell you what happened last night. I went out for dinner with my husband who insisted that as it was his birthday we go out for a curry. Great I thought, we both love curry, and had been to the restaurant before, so knew what to expect.
We ordered a drink which arrived promptly. And I asked for some poppadum’s to keep us going (which actually never arrived). We ordered our meal. A starter to share. My husband ordering two 1/2 portions of something hot and tasty, while I had a rice dish, and some nan bread between us. She asked if we wanted rice, I said no, my hubby would have some of mine, as he only ever eats a small amount of rice. She went away, and we waited for out meal. The surrounding were calm and quite. The restaurant wasn’t 1/4 filled, and there were ample serving staff. I’m setting the scene, as its often the busy times and staff shortages that cause the most problems, believe me!
It never occurred to me that she didn’t get the order right. It also didn’t occur to me that she hadn’t read the order back to us to confirm she had understood what we had asked for.
The food arrived, and it was wrong. She had completely got my food order wrong. Instead of a biryani – a rice dish, it was a vegetable bhuna – a very different dish altogether. So she took it away. But after 5 minutes I had to go and ask for them to take my husbands food away too, so it could come back out with mine. I wanted to eat with him, not have his food sitting getting cold on the table!
One of the waiters came and apologised, and offered us a drink as a token. We thanked him, and we would have a coffee or another beer after the meal. 5 min later two more beers arrived.
The main meals came back as ordered, together with a fresh nan bread. Each person who served us apologies for the error, so it felt like the whole team has been involved in the disaster! If only she had read the order back to us in the first place, it wouldn’t have happened, they wouldn’t have lost at least £40 in free beers, replaced foods, loss of tips (sorry I couldn’t bring myself to leave anything) and a cancelled booking for later on in the week!
Is it any wonder the high streets are suffering? Restaurant chains are cutting back and shutting branches. They now have to be on the top of their game to entice people to spend their hard earned cash in them. They need to get it right, or loose profit and customers.