My Job When I Was 16…
When I was 14, my very first job was bagging groceries at a local grocery store. I was responsible to greet the customer, move their groceries from the cart to the conveyor at the register, bag everything up and even take it all out to their car if needed (sometimes getting a small tip for loading the bags into their trunk). We offered a full service and we took pride in the fact that we were the only grocery store in the city that did that. I learned at an early age what excellence in service looked like and how a customer loved being catered to.
When I was 16, all that customer service experience landed me a new job: bus boy at a 5-star restaurant in the city’s largest hotel casino called MGM. The restaurant served gourmet Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine and it was called China Seas. Many celebrities that performed at the casino showed up with their entourage to dine, as well as local and international businessmen and women who came to enjoy dinner after gambling or watching a show. It was an awesome experience. The level of service was at such a high standard, so even bus boys like me were very involved in actively conversing with the customers as well as making sure their needs were met at all times.
These experiences taught me some life lessons about business and the importance of customer service. If done correctly, it can be a powerful tool that sets your company apart from the rest. Trust me – as someone who became used to offering such a high level of service, I often get disappointed as a customer seeking to be taken care of (I think that’s why my wife still calls me a princess when we go out to eat. lol)
I thought it would be fun to list some of what I learned to help re-define what customer service can be for us as business owners who continue to serve our customers on a daily basis.
1. Acknowledge their presence. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and no one was there to greet you right away? You stand around for awhile with no one noticing you; they just seem too busy and you start to wonder if you are even welcome there. At China Seas, their number one priority was to create the best first impression and for this very reason, we had two maître d’s. One was always there to greet and acknowledge the customer as soon as they walked through the door, and the second was a backup if the other maître d’ was busy doing the rounds or sitting someone. Our main maître d’s name was George – the friendliest and classiest guy ever (complete with a bow tie), and he never forgot a name. He treated everyone like they owned the building and he always made sure any guest they brought knew it. This simple value alone turned many visitors into repeat customers to eventually regulars.
2. Meet their basic needs first, then go beyond. As a bus boy, we had two main jobs: water and hot tea. I was assigned nine tables per night, and my job was to walk around and make sure their water did not fall below 1/2 full. If the boss saw the water glass empty, we got in trouble…if anyone asked for water because we forgot to fill it, we were dead…and if it occurred often, we would eventually be fired. The hot tea on the table was always filled up to the rim – even if they took 2 or 3 sips, we’d fill it back up to make sure it stayed hot. At the end of the night, they’d inevitably tell us to STOP filling up the cup – that’s when we knew we’d gone beyond their expectation.
3. Make eye contact. This doesn’t seem like much but it makes all the difference in the world. When we were walking around the tables to fill up the water, we looked at each customer to make eye contact. This avoids the frustration of the customer trying to get our attention. If the customer needed something, all they had to do is to make eye contact back at me. I’d be running over to see what I could do. I didn’t realize how important this was until I became a customer and needed my beer asap. The waiter walked by me three times without looking at me; I almost cried.
4. Execute quickly. When something is asked of you, act quickly to ensure they know you haven’t forgotten about them. It shows their immediate needs and wants matter to you.
Of course not all of us are in the food service industry, so this list may look a bit different for you. But I think there is some fundamental truth in each one that can be implemented in every context.
I would love to hear what you do in your business that goes beyond the norm to offer true excellence in customer service. I hope you fill the cup of every customer you meet today!