The 12 Biggest Myths of “Customer Service” (and What to Do About Them)
By Jim Sullivan, CEO, Copyright 2015 Sullivision.com
I like what I do. Every year I deliver dozens of service and leadership seminars for successful companies around the world. We also re-design manager and server training programs for Gen Next team members. In doing so, we get to assimilate a wide variety of best practices relative to customer service, incremental sales building, and leadership.
And if you pay enough attention, you start to see subtle patterns, trends and evolutions occurring in hospitality leadership and service-providing, and a sea change of new behavior is in full swing right now. And so I think it’s time to address–and possibly debunk—the top 12 customer service-related myths in our industry and address the new realities.
Do you agree or disagree with the following points? The way you think about each one may define the road map for your company’s future in these challenging times.
- “The Customer Comes First”: As far as managers are concerned, the customer comes third. Leadership comes first, the team second. Never treat a customer better than you do an employee. Instead of ranking relationships between customers and employees, we should focus on establishing equity instead. Service, like charity, begins at home, and if you’re not vested in serving your team as equally well as you serve your customers, you’re headed for trouble, pure and simple.
- “The Customer is always right.” No. The customer is not always right, but is always the customer, and it’s alright for the customer to be wrong. The customer is usually right.
- “A Satisfied Customer Comes Back.” Customer satisfaction is meaningless. Customer loyalty is priceless. A satisfied customer doesn’t necessarily ever come back, but loyal ones do. Customers don’t want to settle for “satisfied”. They usually want fun, flair, memorable experiences; they always want the absence of complaints. As Danny Meyer, New York City restaurateur says, “Give your guests what they remember and give them something new each time they visit.”
- “We’ve Got to Focus on the Competition”. You’re right. But what you may not realize is that your competition is the customer, not the other restaurants. So stop looking across the street and focus on the face above the tabletop or at the counter. In fact we all should be spending more time managing the energy in each of our units rather than focusing on what the competition is doing.
- “Secret” Shoppers accurately measure Service Delivery”. Measuring customer satisfaction in your restaurant by merely tallying mystery shopper scores is like judging chili by counting the beans. Measure what matters. Same store sales increases, higher customer traffic, and lower employee turnover are just as—if not more—important measures. Mystery Shopping can be effective, but only if it measures the good as well as the bad, and the “shoppers” are people with hospitality experience who truly know the subtleties to look for. Focus on creating internal quality for your staff first and they in turn will build a happy customer. A happy customer buys more.
- “Customer service never changes.” I think that most of us will agree that the customer has changed dramatically on the last five years. So therefore the meaning of customer service has changed too. And mostly in this way: It means never having to ask for anything.
- “People are our most important asset.” The old adage that “people are your most important asset” is wrong. The right people are your most important asset. The right people are not “warm bodies”. The right people are those servers, cashiers, cooks, hostesses or managers who would exhibit the desired team and customer service behavior you want anyway, as a natural extension of their character and attitude, regardless of any control or incentive system. Hire nice people. Training people to be nice is a pain in the ass. Hire the personality, train the skills.
- “There’s a Labor Crisis”. According to the National Restaurant Association and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every seven days we turn over 250,000 employees in this industry. Yikes. But where do they go? To other industries, or other restaurants? Get straight on this: there is no (nor has there ever been) a “labor” crisis. We’ve had a turnover crisis. So the tough question you have to ask yourself about your operation is not “Are there enough people available to work?” but rather “Are there enough people available to work who want to work for us?” Make your operation a fun, reputable and caring place to work.
- “Invest first in building the Brand.” Sorry, I disagree. Invest first in people, second in brand, third in bricks and mortar. Give me a Weber grill and a tent in a parking lot along with the best service-oriented people who take care of the customer and each other, and every shift I’ll beat the pants off the restaurant with the multi-million dollar building next door. Even when it rains.
- “Information is Power”. Know the difference between “information” and “communication”. These two words are often used interchangeably but in fact, mean two different things; information is “giving out”, communication is “getting through”. Training is your secret weapon, but I suspect that much of your training informs more than it communicates. Besides, the belief that information is power leads managers to hoard it, not share it, and that’s backwards thinking. Sharing information not only enlightens, it shares the burden of leadership and engages the creativity and solutions of the entire team.
- “We need New Ideas to Progress”. Why do companies always want “new ideas”? I’ll tell you why, because “new ideas” are easy. The hard part is letting go of ideas that worked for you two years ago and are now out of date. So before you and your team brainstorm dozens of “new ideas” that get listed on flip charts, gives everyone a warm fuzzy, and then are never implemented, allow me to suggest a different angle. The newest and most innovative thing you can do for your business may be to master the “basics” that everyone knows and no one executes consistently (like caring behavior, service with flair, and employee appreciation).
- “We must add sizzle to our service program.” No you don’t, because this usually means a lot of sloganeering, snickers and very little substance. Face it; the reality is that customers today don’t want service “done to them” they want the absence of complaints (see #6). So identify your customer’s top five expectations and top five complaints. Now ask your managers and servers to make the same list. Compare them. If you’re not all on the same page, then someone’s suffering as a result…most likely the customer.
In summary, remember that there is no “silver bullet” for guaranteeing great service and a great team, but remember this every day: “Keep it fresh, keep it focused, and remember to say thank you.”
Jim Sullivan is an award-winning trainer, speaker, and author. He’s the CEO of Sullivision.com. You can get free monthly e-newsletters, podcasts, apps and product catalog at www.sullivision.com. His FREE app of Leadership Quotes called QuoteZilla is available at Google Play or iTunes