9/25/2012 10:18 AM
Good customer service is one of those values that sound like apple pie and motherhood. Everyone claims to believe in it. And yet why is there so much indifferent or even bad service out there? I believe I know the answer to this question. Customer service fundamentally revolves around people with problems, which in turn causes human nature to fail us. Upset, demanding people trigger defensive reactions in nearly everyone.
This means that truly great service - the kind that brands your foodservice operation - involves learning very specific skills. Skills that transcend human nature. Skills that most people do not know until they have been taught them. Skills that, in my experience, dramatically change both the morale of your team and the experience of your customers. Here is a quick summary of some of my favorite ones:
1. Reflective listening. Everyone thinks that they listen to their customers. But real listening that engages people and defuses conflict has three important steps: (1) giving people time and space to tell their story, (2) paraphrasing what they tell us in our own words, and (3) mirroring their emotions.
Try an experiment sometime. Go out in public and watch how often people reflect the position of an upset customer. It almost never happens! This is why reflective listening is such a powerful tool for you and your team.
2. Delivering bad news. You may think that customers never react well to bad news. In reality, no one reacts well to what we normally do, which is throw bad news in people's faces like a cold, dead fish. Instead, try a three-step process to deliver bad news in stages, and more often than not you will find that anger turns into productive problem-solving.:
· Introduce the situation ("I know you were hoping to have us cater a major event next week"),
· Discuss the situation with as much detail as possible ("Here is the manpower situation we are working with. As a result, I don't believe we will be able to take on this event. Let's look at some options.")
· Reflect back whatever they say with empathy ("Absolutely, this is a very important event.")
3. Acknowledging the other person's position. Most of us don't really know how to acknowledge a customer's feelings. Try using one of what I call the three "octane levels" of acknowledgement, and watch their reactions change: observe their feelings ("I can tell you are pretty upset about this"), validate them ("Everyone hates situations like this"), or identify with them ("That would bother me too.")
4. Never, ever say no. We all have a survival instinct that makes us push back when we are told "no." Instead of saying no to customers, use the "can-can": respond with what you can acknowledge and what you can do. For example, "I realize this is your favorite dish. Even though we ran out of this, let's look at some other options."
When you learn and practice techniques like these - and more important, teach them to everyone on your team - you can all become supremely confident in handling any customer situation. This, in turn, will become the cornerstone of the great service quality that improves your morale, turnover, repeat business - and ultimately, your bottom line.
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Rich Gallagher MA MFT is a former customer service executive, practicing psychotherapist, and bestselling author on communications skills and customer service. He has trained over 20,000 people what to say in their worst customer situations. His nine books include the #1 customer service bestseller What to Say to a Porcupine, a 2008 finalist for 800-CEO-READ's business book of the year, and his forthcoming project The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Even Your Worst Customer Situations. Visit him at www.pointofcontactgroup.com.
by Rich Gallagher MA MFT