Quality service is often what sets one restaurant apart from another. Simply put, the best cuisine in the world won’t necessarily lead to returning customers, if the service lacks.
Customer service consultants provide training and strategic planning to make sure employees share the same goal to satisfy patrons. Service insiders teach that good customer relations extends beyond just the tableside. Many times it actually starts long before the patron ever arrives.
Start With the Basics
When a customer calls for reservations, consultants focus on making sure the phone is answered promptly and courteously. These human resources specialists work to help the eatery enact a system of checks to minimize mistakes and lost reservations. According to leading hospitality polls, customers rank personalized service top on their list of what makes an outstanding restaurant.
When the customer does arrive, consultants recommend the staff welcome him or her by name. “Ms. Smith, your table is ready” goes a long way in creating a memorable impression and hopefully a repeat patron.
Service consultants break down customer relations into three categories: courtesy, attentiveness and timeliness. While many restaurants feel they provide this, consultants help to truly gage quality. For this reason, consultants tailor programs to clear up any disconnect between business and clientele.
Some of the simplest changes to enact involve server awareness. Most consultants teach restaurant staff to anticipate their customers’ needs, such as refilling water glasses and removing empty plates without being asked. Going beyond good to great is a matter of degree and studying the patron carefully. If a server notes that the customer is left handed, a discreet change in cutlery placement tells that patron the server is paying attention.
Consultants also develop systems to help restaurants bond with their clientele. One common method is a birthday program that serves up a free dessert and card to repeat customers on their big day. Other establishments offer frequent dining bargains, which record points each time a customer visits. The patron receives a free meal after so many points.
Many customer service training firms offer DVD packages outlining techniques of the trade and tips for improved courtesy. These companies also tend to hold onsite workshops and online courses for restaurants with larger staffs.
For the restaurateur who might not have the time or money to recruit a customer relations trainer, the Internet hosts a variety of websites designed to help eateries improve services. Some post weekly tips for wait and bar staff that provide valuable insight on time management and organization.
Other sites include online forums where industry professionals can exchange ideas and pointers. More importantly, these websites allow restaurant employees to learn from each other’s experiences. Many provide news articles about new methods for dealing with customers, the latest industry issues, and trends.