Generally, there are two things me and my dad like to do together: one, go for a pint, and two, make questionable excuses to take the 20 minute drive into town really just so that we can go and get a decent coffee.
We’re quite the coffee chain connoisseurs, my dad and I. We’ve sampled a vast variety of caffeinated hang-outs, and the battle to be entitled ‘the Allens’ favourite coffee chain’ still continues to be waged.
The biggest factor in determining the quality of our coffee quaffing experiences, though, has to be customer service.
At one of the coffee shops in our nearest town, we are consistently massively disappointed, maybe even a little bit saddened. Here, except on the odd occasions, staff chatter away amongst themselves as they serve, pay little or no attention to the customers, and are loud, unprofessional, and almost rude. If it wasn’t for the fact that they serve such tasty pastry, we probably wouldn’t bother going back.
When it comes to customer service, I’ve found in my work in retail, catering, and hospitality that the little things really count. I reckon the three golden rules probably go a bit like this:
1) Smile. Always smile. Preferably a warm smile as opposed to inane or manic, but it’s a start as long as a smile is there. A death stare or moody pout can be pretty off putting when all you want to do is ask for a different shoe size.
2) Pay attention to the customer. Make eye contact, and most importantly end conversations with other staff even if you have to cut off from telling your amazing story about how another of your friends last night ended up drunk, wearing a flower pot, and lying in a ditch somewhere. In fact, especially if you’re telling a story like that.
3) Be friendly. Even if you’ve gotten up on the wrong side of bed, that isn’t the customer’s fault. Be nice, remember the manners your mum/dad/grandparents taught you, and just treat the customer how you’d like to be treated.
It’s surprising how effective friendly staff can be. Over a pint the other day, my dad was telling me about his visit to a restaurant while he was on holiday in Cornwall. The owner was helping to serve customers and had a long chat with my parents as though they were long lost friends, even giving them each a free drink at the end of the night – obviously, they went back again a couple of nights later.
It’s surprising how many workers fail to exercise these three tiny little factors, much to the detriment of the businesses they work for. To encourage repeat custom, as well as decent reviews and reports, the customer needs to feel valued, appreciated, and treated as an individual as opposed to some kind of faceless, money-splashing drone. Even if your restaurant serves the tastiest spaghetti this side of Italy, no one will be interested if staff look as though they’d rather be a million miles away than actually doing their job.
This also applies with networking, socialising, or anything that requires interaction with other human beings. Friendliness makes you approachable and memorable, and makes it much easier to build relationships.
On the plus side, too, if you smile at people they’re more likely to smile back.
So, go on – turn that frown upside down. It won’t cost you a penny, but might go towards earning a few.