This piece is the an entry in the "Happy to Help" Series, ongoing articles focused on elevating customer service experiences.
A True Story
Tim and his family were celebrating the college graduation of his oldest son. This included Tim, his wife, Aaron (the graduate), two siblings (a brother and a sister), two sets of grandparents, and Uncle Pete (Tim’s brother)—a total of ten people.
Tim decided that to commemorate the occasion, they should go out for a special dinner at Aaron’s favorite restaurant. Because of the size of the group, Tim decided to make a reservation. When he called, he was greeted with a pleasant voice who politely asked him to hold. After several minutes of waiting, he decided to hang up and try again. When Tim’s call was answered the second time, he was given immediate attention and was able to set up the reservation. He figured that the first time was no big deal, stuff happens, people get busy, and didn't think any more about it.
When Tim and his group arrived, they saw that the restaurant was very busy. Tim was concerned, but was comforted by the fact that he had a reservation. After entering the restaurant, Tim mentioned to the host that he called ahead to reserve a table for his group. The host smiled, and then explained that she would have them seated in a few minutes.
Five minutes passed.
Then fifteen minutes had gone by.
When Tim returned to the front kiosk to inquire about his reservation, the hostess responded in a stressed voice, “Yes! Right this way.” The group was finally seated, and Tim reflected on his experience. “No big deal, right?” he thought to himself, “So what if I made a reservation and still had to wait several minutes? I can see that they are really busy.”
After several more minutes passed, a server finally materialized and asked for the group’s drink order. Shortly after, the server returned to bring the group their drinks, and then asked what their food choices would be from the menu. Many minutes later, the server returned to deliver the entrées, everything made as it should be.
The food was delicious and Tim was enjoying the celebration so much that he was halfway through his meal before he realized his drink was empty. Tim looked around the table to see that much of the family had empty drinks as well. Their server was just passing by at that moment and Tim was able to get his attention. Tim pointed to the empty glasses on the table and politely explained that everyone needed refills.
The server returned promptly and refilled everyone’s drink, and then asked about everyone’s meal. Everybody answered in the affirmative, or that it was “fine,” and the server was gone like a flash. A short while later, Tim noticed his glass was empty again. But this time his server was nowhere in sight.
“I wanted another refill,” Tim later explained to his wife. “I guess it was okay. I mean, they seemed pretty busy.” But as Tim looked around he began to realized there were only a few other groups in the restaurant. He continued waiting in hopes that his server would be along to refill his drink. Tim finally gave up and asked a wandering server about drinks. This second server assured Tim that his server would be along shortly. Several more minutes passed, and again Tim had to get the attention of yet another server insisting that he get some drink refills. Finally, his server showed up and refilled the drinks.
Despite the way things had gone that evening, Tim was looking forward to at least enjoying a tasty dessert. He smiled with excitement as he saw his server approaching without having to be flagged down. Then, without saying a word, the server dropped the bill on the table in front of Tim and sped off in a different direction to gather the soiled dishes from another table.
“So much for dessert,” Tim said to himself. He decided that he was probably better off anyway. The way things had gone tonight, he suspected it would have taken another thirty minutes for a piece of cheesecake. When Tim looked at his bill, it didn’t seem to add up quite right. As he looked again to dissect the bill, he saw that an “18% gratuity for groups of eight or more” had been automatically added.
In frustration, Tim thought to himself, “It’s time for Aaron to find a new favorite restaurant.”
That experience likely sounds familiar because I shared it in this article a few weeks ago. Let's take a look at what that interaction should have looked like. I'll apply the concepts of Delivering Exactly, Elegantly, and Energetically customer needs that I've covered over the last several weeks.
A True Story - Revisited
Tim and his family are celebrating the college graduation of his oldest son, Aaron. The celebration party includes ten people in all. Tim decides that to commemorate the occasion, they should go out to dinner at Aaron’s favorite restaurant. Because of the large group, Tim decides to call and make a reservation. The phone is answered after one ring, and his name and group size are taken immediately.
Deliver exactly: When Tim arrives, he explains that he has a reservation. Although the place is very busy, his group is seated in less than five minutes.
Deliver elegantly: After being seated, less than a minute passes before Tim’s server arrives to take the group’s drink order. The server is kind, polite, and sincere. He returns promptly with drinks and asks for their meal orders.
Deliver energetically: Although the business continues to remain busy, Tim’s server always has a smile and a joke when he is at the group’s table.
Deliver exactly: As anticipated, the server keeps the drinks of all ten people full throughout the entire meal.
Deliver exactly: As Tim is finishing his main course, the server shows them the dessert menu and asks for their dessert preference. The group is again promptly served.
Deliver elegantly: Tim receives his bill and leaves a generous tip for his server. As he is leaving, the server (who has not yet bussed the table, or seen his gratuity) politely and sincerely thanks Tim by name for choosing his restaurant and allowing him the joy of being their server.
Deliver Your Customer's Needs - Summary
The three skills associated with Delivering your customer needs are to Deliver exactly, elegantly, and energetically.
Deliver exactly by getting the things that your customer asked for specifically, as well as things that are expected but may not be asked for.
Deliver elegantly by being a genuinely nice person that practices good manners. Be polite and use words like please, thank you, and you’re welcome. Do nice things for them, anticipate their needs, and smile the whole time.
Deliver energetically with a full array of positive emotions and attitudes like being happy, friendly, and enthusiastic, and all around enjoying your work with customers. Customers should be able to feel the happiness permeating from you. This means being energetic even when are not feeling that energetic. You are a performer. Any time you are helping a customer, you are onstage and expected to be in character, regardless of what emotions or personal issues you may be facing. Smile until you mean it.
Delivering your customers’ needs exactly, elegantly, and energetically will help you offer better customer service performance as you work to build relationships.
Here are some additional discussion questions about how you are Delivering your customer’s needs.
How well does your business do at Delivering exactly what your guest needs?
What areas need improvement?
What are the unspoken expectations of your work?
Why are these unspoken expectations important to your customers?
Is your team of employees polite?
Do they say please, thank you, and you’re welcome?
Where are the optimal opportunities to improve in Delivering elegantly?
Who is your most elegant or most polite employee?
What do they do differently from everyone else that others can learn?
Does your team Deliver your product energetically?
Who is the most energetic employee?
What do they do differently from everyone else?
How can energy and enthusiasm be increased in the work place?
What can you do personally to get energized prior to going to work?
With a learning partner, work through an entire transaction. You will act as a customer, while your learning partner acts as an employee. You, as the customer, should act as if it is your first time purchasing from the business. Consider what expectations you have and how they should be Delivered. Allow your learning partner as the employee to first Discover your needs and then Deliver them. Have fun with it; be a little difficult, but realistic. Verify your needs are Delivered exactly, elegantly, and energetically.
After finishing the entire transaction, switch roles. Run through the scenario again, but make sure that your learning partner, who is now the customer, asks for different, but still common first-time requests. Deliver their needs.
After you have finished this second transaction, make a list answering these questions: What are common expectations that your customer has and how can their requests be Delivered exactly? What are prime opportunities to be elegant while showing respect and gratitude? What are specific moments that you can Deliver energetically and what improvements can be made.
Now go through two more transactions, each of you with an opportunity to be the customer again. This time each of you will pose as a loyal customer who purchases from your business often.
After these two transactions, again make a list of common ways to Deliver exactly, elegantly, and energetically for a loyal customer.
Compare the two lists you have now created, one from a first-time customer and one from a loyal repeat customer. Discuss the following: What is the same about how you Deliver exactly, elegantly, and energetically for a new customer versus an existing one? What is different? What would be the most important thing to train a new employee about Delivering the needs of a customer?
Share what you’ve learned with a minimum of three coworkers.
Visit at least one competitor. Discuss with a co-worker or manager the following information about your competitor vs. your organization.
EASY: Regarding Delivering the needs of your customer, what do you do at your organization better than your competitor?
INTERMEDIATE: Regarding Delivering the needs of your customer, what do you and your competitor do about the same? What can you do to differentiate your organization from theirs?
HARD: Regarding Delivering the needs of your customer, what does your competitor do better than your organization? What needs to happen for your organization to level the playing field, or take things a notch higher than that competitor?