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Improving Customer Service

Improving customer service starts at the top - with us owners and managers. We need to be living pictures of how we want our staff to treat customers. Having 10 plus years operating, owning and working in the food business and being a customer myself, I know what good customer service looks like. If I don't place a high value on the best customer service possible, then my staff won't make it a priority either.

From the time a customer walks into our establishment until the time he or she leaves, we need to treat them as guests in a mature, professional manner, regardless of their demeanor or our good or bad day. We are there to serve them and meet their needs as best we can. They are buying our service. The following are some great tips I have picked up from different sources over the years.

Atmosphere: This is the way your establishment looks and feels . Is your music too loud? If it is, it creates a confusing atmosphere where you and your customers could have problems hearing and understanding each other. The music needs to be tasteful and relaxing.

Clean: There have been many surveys by market research companies revealing that customers place cleanliness at the top when deciding where to dine. We did a survey and seventy five percent said if the restaurant was not clean, they would leave. Having a clean kitchen is great, but the customer doesn't usually see it. It starts from the moment they drive or walk into your establishment. Is it free from litter, gum, and cigarette butts, and is the front door clean and sparkly? Are your windows clean and free from tacky signs or posters? Are your floors and floor boards clean? A customer in our business recently pointed out to me that the return air vents was dusty and dirty. Since I'm not in the habit at looking up at the ceiling, I was glad for her input and took care of it right away! How about those menu boards and menus, if they are dirty your customers may lose their appetites.

Are you using a smelly rag to wash the tables with that leaves an odor on the table? Customers think it is more sanitary if you use a spray cleaner and paper towels, but make sure you use one paper towel to clean the seats with and a separate one for the tables. Check with your health department to see what cleaning solution is required for your area.

The restrooms need to be clean, stocked, free from odor, have no graffiti on the stalls or doors, and have proper lighting. Train yourself and your staff to check these often during the day.

Staff: Good manners are a must! Saying please, thank you , and may I help you should be a requirement. . Also make it a rule that they need to be professional and not use foul or offensive language. Remember, this starts with you and the way you treat your staff. Body language is another part of good manners. Never stare, look past a customer, roll your eyes. Instead smile, ( no smile indicates indifference) make eye contact, and greet your customer as soon as possible. Customers are less likely to leave when you're busy if they are acknowledged right away.

Accuracy: Give the customer your undivided attention and repeat their order to them. We all make mistakes, including the customer and this will help insure that they get what they want. Even doing this, sometimes the customer will tell you their order is not right, but never get defensive even though you know that they were the ones at fault. Just apologize and tell them you want to make the order right.

Proper Staffing: If your employees are overworked, they won't be concerned with accuracy or good customer service and there will be no time for stocking or cleaning. Employees tend to burn out faster if they are overworked.

Finally, thank the customer and bid them farewell. This will leave them with an overall sense of a positive dining experience.

About The Author

Luana Owns the web-site, allfoodbusiness.com. She has, along with her husband, owned and operated restaurants for over ten years. lemmons@allfoodbusiness.com

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