I will never, ever tell my staff to follow the ‘insert smile here’ model of customer service. You know, like the kind of scripted dialogue you get at McDonalds. Or the automatic “hello” you get upon walking into WalMart. Some people might appreciate that kind of mindless interaction, but I don’t. And I’m sure my staff wouldn’t enjoy operating that way.
I was talking about this very topic over dinner with some good friends recently. We had a lively discussion about what good customer service is, and interestingly, we disagreed on a lot of points. A couple of my friends hate it when servers write “Thank you” or put smiley faces on their restaurant bills, because it comes across as phony, and a last attempt to butter you up so they get a better tip. Personally, I like it!
What we did agree on, is that making a genuine connection and going above and beyond are the surest ways to wow us. What does that look like? One friend was at a restaurant with her husband, and when they were ordering a bottle of wine from their server, another server overheard it and immediately went to get the wine and pass it to their server, who was still taking their order. It almost magically appeared. Simple, but effective. How often do we see smooth displays of teamwork like that?
Another friend talked about how much fun he had at a diner where a server skillfully teased him and his date, along with other patrons in his section. He made them all laugh without being intrusive, and created a sense of community among strangers. My friend says he will go back there whenever he can, because of that one experience.
It probably says something about me and my friends that all we can talk about is the food service industry (OK, I admit–I dine out a lot), but really, it’s the same story no matter what kind of service you’re talking about. Truly, we are all longing for connection. It’s human nature… a need so deeply wired in us. We want to laugh, we want to belong, we want to feel appreciated and valued. A canned greeting does not accomplish any of this. We know when we’re being treated like just another face in the line-up.
I tell my team that I want customers to be acknowledged within three seconds of walking in the door, no matter how busy they are. But aside from that, I leave it to their best judgment how to connect with customers. I hire people who are intelligent and have common sense, and are genuinely friendly and helpful–so I know I can trust them to create a stellar service experience. I never tire of hearing people tell me about the great interaction they had with one of my employees. It happens a lot, so I know putting faith in my team must be the right thing to do