The 12 Fatal Flaws of Customer Service
By Jim Sullivan, CEO Sullivision.com Copyright 2015
When plotting their service strategy and delivery, too many operators, managers and trainers focus on what they should “do” for their customer. I think it’s more important to first focus on what not to do. In other words, do you know what you don’t know that you don’t know?
Most customers today define service as “the absence of complaints,” not as something a company “gives them” Let’s take a closer look at the fundamental fatal flaws of service-giving as seen through the customer’s lens. Eliminate these service blunders, and you may no longer have the need to “teach” service at all because your customers will have a consistent experience characterized by the absence of complaints.
- Fail to be a Servant Leader. What’s happening on the inside of your store is felt on the outside by our customers. How the team feels ends up on the plate, sandwich or burger: happy teams make better service and good service makes a meal taste better every time. Treat your team the way you expect them to treat your customers, and never treat a customer better than you do an employee. We need to spread energy everyday —not take it away.
- Fail to focus. Most customer complaints can be traced back to disrespect or perceived disrespect. A distracted, visibly irritated or stressed server or manager should not be the first thing a customer experiences when walking in our front door. After all, the customer just drove past 10, 20, 30 or 40 other restaurants to come to ours. The customer is not an interruption of our job. The customer is our job.
- Too slow when speed is expected. Teach your team to be both quick and accurate during both peak and slower meal periods. (Accuracy trumps speed). Recognize them when they improve accuracy and speed, and coach them how to get better when they don’t.
- Superficial Congeniality. Everyone can detect the difference between genuine and forced hospitality. What does “superficial congeniality” look like? Picture the flight attendants on your last trip.
- Letting guests overhear managers and crew discuss the daily activities of running a restaurant. Customers should never be within earshot of managers telling team members to wipe down a table, clean bathrooms, or clock out. They should never have to hear a manager reprimanding an associate, or listen to a manager complaining to another manager about business. Pull those conversations away from your customers.
- Not noticing a customer with a problem. The most important real estate in your restaurant is the 18 inches or so between the top of the table and the top of the customers head. Constantly scan the guest’s body language in every section for patrons who look like they need something or appear unhappy with their sandwich, cookie, chips, beverage or experience.
- Avoiding a customer with a problem. This is much worse than not noticing a problem in the first place. Managers Sandwich Artists must be vigilant about resolving a small problem before it becomes a big one. The classic problem resolution formula follows the acronym BLAST: Believe the Customer, Listen to them, Act on the complaint, Satisy them ad Thank them.
- A public work area that is not spotless. You sell more in a clean Subway, or any restaurant, and don’t ever think that customers don’t notice and talk about it. Our work areas should be spotless—Disney-clean–always and all ways. Ray Kroc, McDonald’s original CEO was fanatical about cleanliness and said: “Clean the corners and the middle will take care of itself.”
- Failing the teach the team WHY. Way too many foodservice owners and managers tell their teams what to do and how to do it instead of first teaching WHY we do it. Case in point: we constantly train the team to suggest combos, beverages, chips, cookies…but how many of us have ever spent an equal amount of time explaining why we sell? When was the last time you explained Foodservice Economics 101 to your crew? Do they know the average profit on the dollar is less than a dime? Do they know how much you spend on utilities, rent, napkins, food, equipment, supplies, etc? At our website (Sullivision.com) you can order a simple poster for your crew that shows the profit on the dollar or our best-selling “What We Get Paid For” poster and DVD that will teach them how the foodservice business works.
- Over-looking teachable moments. This is a common flaw among operators. Go through the trash occasionally. Find the bucket that wasn’t completely emptied. Point out that that may have the team’s raise they threw away. Help sandwich Artists to think like owners do.
- Failing to communicate before every shift. If you don’t give your team specific goals before every shift they will presume you don’t have any, and substitute their own. Is that really what you want? Every month, se specific sales and service goals for every single shift and then share them with your team. A short two minute pre-shift meeting should be mandatory not optional every shift. You can download a free pre-shift meeting planning template on our home page at www.sullivision.com
- Making lots of mistakes (but never learning from them). Messing up is one thing, but failing to recognize the error and learning not to make the same mistake again is what distinguishes good operators from great ones. At manager meetings, identify three specific operations-related challenges from the previous week to discuss, analyze and learn from. It’s all about continuous improvement. As the Japanese proverb says: One hundred days to learn; one thousand to refine.
Bottom line? We’re only as good as our last happy customer. Think like your customers and focus first on eliminating dissatisfaction. Ironically, you can stop “giving service” and instead give the most precious gift you can supply to a customer: The absence of complaints.
Get our bestselling book Fundamentals to learn hundreds of more ways to improve service, increase sales and build stronger teams. Available at the Sullivision store or Amazon.com