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3 ways to improve your customer experience

The human connection between staff and customers will set your restaurant apart. Build relationships and you'll build businesses.

3 ways to improve your customer experience

By Laura MacLeod, LMSW

Customer service training often begin with SMILE. When I worked as a server and bartender in free standing and hotel restaurants, my co-workers and I were directed to smile. No one questioned this directive — it seemed clear that a bright smile was needed to greet and welcome guests.

Smiling is a fine start. Workers setting the tone for a pleasant experience and positive relationship with the customer. But is it really that simple? The answer is a resounding, "No." Smiling consistently for eight (or more) hours is not physically possible or appropriate in all situations. Customers may share upsetting stories: they've come from a hospital visit, difficult business meeting, or they're just having a bad day. If I respond with a bright smile pasted on my face, clearly I'm not hearing and empathizing. I've used nothing of myself — I could easily be replaced with a robot.

In fast food and casual restaurants, workers must not only smile but use themselves — their personality, humor and values — to improve customer service and ensure customer loyalty. Plenty of restaurants offer smiling faces, good food and speedy service. The human connection between staff and customers will set your restaurant apart. Build relationships and you'll build businesses. Here's how:

Check in
Before each shift, gather workers together and do a quick check in. Share information with the employees (inventory and supplies, changes to menu, staff assignments) as well as your expectations for business (weather or local events may affect). Encourage workers to ask questions and share concerns and feedback. This interaction builds confidence and connection. Workers are prepared, comfortable and ready to authentically welcome customers.

Spend time with employees sharing customer interactions (positive and negative) and discuss and practice ways to manage difficult situations and improve worker -customer relationship. Encourage collaboration. Workers can (and should) help each other relate to customers and each other. Build relationships among workers and customer relations will follow.

Customer service is not always easy or pleasant. Workers need to know that you support them when times get tough. Take a close look at complaints and find ways to manage customer upset and stay loyal to your workers. You'll need to use yourself (great modeling for staff!) to connect and manage these difficult relationships.

Follow these tips to build confidence, security and collaboration among employees. Workers will feel comfortable and empowered; happy to greet customers and build relationships. Customers in turn feel comfortable and valued. They'll be back and will bring their friends and family. Now you and your staff can smile, and it will be authentic.

Cover phot: iStock

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