Much like ice cream, excellent customer service and support comes in many shapes and flavors.
Unlike ice cream, support is a dish best served warm.
An unfortunate side effect of my background in hospitality is never ending tongue in cheek food analogies and the constant urge to sniff out similarities between my former role and my current position in customer service / client relations.
A hero of my former boss turned mentor Ted, is Danny Meyer. Mr. Meyer, known for many things, namely kickass restaurants (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern), radical industry changes (pioneering the no tipping movement) and general fast-casual restaurant domination (recent Shake Shack IPO).
He’s not just a legend in foodie circles though. The guy is also the author of one of the most quintessential hospitality books on the market today titled Setting the Table.
Part memoir, part restaurant bible, Setting the Table sheds light on Mr. Meyer’s signature philosophy called “enlightened hospitality”.
After serving as sous chef for the visionary restaurateur at his wildly popular flagship restaurant in New York City, Union Square Cafe, Ted became an ardent disciple of Meyer’s unique style of “enlightened hospitality”.
So much so, when Ted moved back to Kansas City to build his very own restaurant empire, he wholeheartedly instituted the philosophy across all of his popular eateries as well.
While the overall theory of “enlightened hospitality” tends to be restaurant centric, the basic tenets can just as easily be applied to those in any client facing role.
Happy Employees Before Everyone Else (Yes, Even Clients)
As counterintuitive as it may seem, Meyer espouses the value of first keeping the employees happy, even before clients.
This could mean bonuses for employees who consistently raise the status quo, providing excellent healthcare benefits in an industry that historically has not, or even just brief recognition for a job well done.
At its core, happy employees cultivate a general sense of value and pride in one’s work throughout the entire organization. This positive energy is palpable and spreads contagiously among the staff as it works with clients, the community, suppliers and, ultimately, the organization’s investors.
In short, happy customers and increased profit are the result of a happy workforce, not the other way around.
Empower Employees to Cultivate “Rave” Scenarios
No, not THAT kind of rave. A rave scenario is one when an employee goes so far above the call of duty to provide excellent customer service, the client feels obligated to rave about it.
This could be something small like a thoughtful gift around the holidays or making yourself available after business hours to assist a stressed client with a project on a tight turn around.
By empowering your employees to make the judgement call on their own, you avoid the missteps of many large corporations. Too often, by the time requests such as these are approved, the window of opportunity to wow a client has closed.
While it’s especially rewarding to read a raving review about your service on a public forum, if the client instead recognizes your great customer service in private, the positive memory will still set the stage for retaining their business in the future.
Not Just Customer Service: Relationships Go Further
We can all agree that excellent customer service is key. Unfortunately, customer service all too often feels very impersonal and generic. Everyone benefits when you take the necessary time to develop a strong relationship with your clients. Some of the benefits include:
- Clients are willing to share candid feedback
- Clients become brand advocates
- Client retention increases
Bottom line, applying even just one of the above teachings is sure to make a positive impact on your company’s profit, regardless of industry.
Can we all agree to take a lesson from the restaurant business on this one and strive for a sense of “enlightened support” at our organizations?