Never let anyone tell you that customer service is easy. It takes a lot of time and energy, but if you genuinely care about your customers and your business, you won’t mind the work it entails. If you’re a business owner, but you don’t think of yourself as being in the hospitality industry, think again. When it boils down to it, every industry is part of the hospitality business. If your customers are not happy or satisfied, then you will not stay in business. But if your customers are happy, it should fill you with a feeling of pride and happiness, too – but more on that later. These are some of the lessons that I learned from my experiences in hospitality and customer service.
When we opened Warmdaddy’s, I worked literally every night for 23 months. I personally made sure that every table was tended to and having a good time. At that time, we only had two restaurants, so that was my only focus. When we opened SOUTH, I did the same and led by example, showing the managers to have the same care, concern, diligence, attention to detail, and desire to please that I did.
Feedback is essential for improving the customer experience. The more current customers you talk to, the more you’ll know how to take care of future customers. There are numerous methods for finding out if your customers are truly happy. You can talk to them in person, but some people might be shy about giving honest feedback to you face-to-face if they’re unhappy about something. Another method we’ve utilized is comment cards for feedback. I always leave my cards at the front with my cell phone number on them. On all of our restaurants’ websites, we make it easy for people to get in touch with us if they have a problem, and we will answer every single email we receive regarding feedback.
But to really get into the mind of a customer and find out what’s working and what’s not, we hire secret shoppers to inspect all of our restaurants. Secret shoppers are a great way to know how your employees are treating guests and we share these reports with the staff.
Earlier, I mentioned that making customers happy can make business owners happy as well. One time that this happened to me – probably the reason why I am still in this business – was in 1993. We didn’t have enough money to hire people to answer the phones, so we took turns; my shift was Tuesdays during the day.
One day the phone rang, and it was the best friend of one of my high school girlfriends. She was planning a night out for her and had no idea I worked at Zanzibar Blue (we only figured it out when she said her name and birthday). From that point, her best friend and I began to plan the most amazing night for her, with everything from flowers, to champagne, to a fabulous dinner, wine, birthday cake, balloons, chocolate, after-dinner drinks, jazz – you name it, we did it.
The night of the party, my high school girlfriend was coming out of the jazz parlor to use the bathroom, and we bumped into each other. She was trying to say thank you, but she was speechless with tears in her eyes from happiness. I realized, right then and there, that I had the most cherished thing in the world in the palm of my hand: happiness, and the ability to make people happy.
As a business owner, you have this ability, too. Make it happen.