An integral part of any dining facility is its customer service. It doesn’t matter how fabulous your dining facility décor is or how delicious your food is, if the service doesn’t meet or exceed customers’ expectations, there is a good chance they won’t come back. Customer service covers many different parts of dining facility day to day operations, going far beyond the front of the house staff. With that said, let’s get into some specific skills that every support employee can master to “WOW” the customers that they interact with on a daily basis…
- Know who is boss. Our mission is to service customer needs and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. Customers let you know what they want and how you can provide good service via their comments both verbal and written. Never forget that if not for the customer our jobs would not be possible.
- Be a good listener. Get to know your customer wants and needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Pay attention to every aspect of customer communication, verbal, non-verbal and most importantly, how they feel about what is being served in your dining facilities. Do not assume – don’t think you intuitively know what your customers want. Do you know what would make your customers dining experience go from good to great? The serving line is your first and last chance to make lasting impressions. Good server/customer interaction and attention to detail are key elements on the serving line where there is a high probability of preoccupation.
- Identify and anticipate ever-changing needs. Soldier’s don’t come into the dining facility for products or services, they come in for escape, relaxation and good food. Eating is an emotional activity. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs. Needs and wants change constantly, a mark of good customer service is knowing when those changes take place and adjusting to them.
- Endear yourself to your customers. Make your customers feel important and appreciated. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. No matter how good the food is and how clean the dining room is, if your customers don’t feel cared about they will not return. Think about ways to generate good feelings about coming into the dining facility. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not they are sincerely cared about. Thank them every time you get a chance. On the dining room floor be sure that your body language conveys sincerity.
- The Customer is always right. This is the golden rule of any business and food service is no exception. Even if you think the customer is wrong you never, ever, tell them that. Be understanding and empathetic and take the time to listen to their complaint orsuggestion. Problems will inevitably arise in even the best of restaurants, it’s how you handle them that will determine if the customer return or go elsewhere.
- Appreciate the power of “Yes”. Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you will do everything in your power to make it happen and get back to them. Figure out how afterwards. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.
- Don’t be afraid to apologize. Food service is a very demanding and sometimes thankless job. There will be times when things will not go as planned. When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to voice their concerns. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.
- Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services.
- Listen carefully to what they say.
- Check back regularly to see how things are going.
- Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.
- Good customer service involves the entire DFAC staff. While the front of the house is the face customers see, customer service includes everyone, from the ration crew to the cooks in the kitchen. Clean rest rooms, good food, a friendly and inviting atmosphere are all components of good customer service, in which every foodservice employee plays a role.
- Treat employees well. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.