We just don’t get it. Tough economic times make it harder and harder to sell products, competition is fierce and yet it seems customer service levels actually are falling. Yes, competition is tough; it could even be called hyper-competition they way everyone wants to steal your customers. This post is about the restaurant industry, but it relates to retailers as well.
We signed up for T.G.I. Friday’s “Give Me More Stripes” rewards card. It’s excellent; the deals are great. Overall, we have no complaints about Friday’s, except for that one time we stopped in for a quick dinner. The place was less than half full, yet we stood near the front door and no one approached us. We looked to the left and there, sitting in a section closed to customers, was the hostess, the greeter, whatever they call the person who is supposed to seat guests. She saw us, but she was busy folding silverware into napkins. She kept at this for a few minutes before she stopped and come over to seat us. And yes, she apologized for the wait, but seriously, what’s higher on the food chain? Folding napkins or greeting guests?
In tough economic times your staff needs to be more productive. We've said that a million times, but we also preach priorities: Customers first, tasks second. Here’s the deal: If you are not absolutely clear about how this customers first thing works, your staff will decide their own priorities. And those priorities just might be completing assigned tasks first, taking care of customers second. And that ain’t good.
Flash forward two days after dinner at Friday’s. We walk into a McDonald's. There are two customers at the counter waiting to order and four associates behind the counter, standing by the drive-thru window, in deep conversation, with no desire to be disturbed. The man ahead of us waved to them, they saw him (and the rest of us), but pretended that they didn’t. You’ve been there, right?
We decided to leave and head out to Culver’s, another joint that sells burgers. But once inside, we sense something different: Culver's isn't just another fast food restaurant; it’s more like a Disneyland that sells food. It’s a happy place!
Here, we approach the counter and the three associates behind the counter all smile, grinning from ear to ear, like they’re really glad to see us. They each say hello and in unison offer to help us. We turn around to see if there's some celebrity behind us, but it’s just the two of us they're happy to see. We place our order, grab our Coke’s and find a table. At Culver's you don't have to hang around the counter waiting for your food; they bring it to your table.
During our meal, another smiling associate stopped by, offering free samples of their featured frozen custard. Sold! We’ll take two. And when we were finished yet another smiling associate cleaned our table. No trips to the trash can for Culver’s customers.
Okay, so aside for this post being an ad for Culver’s, what’s the point about our experience? Easy. The next time you’re hungry for a burger, forgo your usual restaurant and stop in at a Culver’s. Sit back and watch how they make their customers feel welcome and important. We absolutely guarantee you will find a number of things to take back and tweak for your own store. It doesn’t matter which Culver’s franchise you are in, you’ll find the same great customer care. It’s just the Culver way. It should be your way as well.
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