5 Principles for Great Restaurant Customer Service | Picture of Waiter Arm and Tray

5 Principles for Great Restaurant Customer Service

Restaurants are one of the few truly universal industries because almost everyone has familiarity with them.

5 Principles for Great Restaurant Customer Service | Picture of Waiter Arm and TrayFrom a customer service perspective, this makes restaurant customer service particularly challenging  because almost every customer has both established service expectations and well-formed service triggers.

Those expectations are often pegged to price or to impressions created by the physical environment.

In many cases, expectations are derived from the industry segment. We don’t expect the same service from Burger King as we do from Spago. A quick service restaurant (fast food) is obviously expected to be a completely different experience from a fine dining restaurant.

Where the industry gets tricky is that the segments are not always clearly defined, particularly in the mind of the consumer. Major brands are easiest to peg. Burger King is fast food. Panera is fast casual. Morton’s is fine dining.

But what about the family-owned Italian corner restaurant? Or the hip, modern downtown restaurant/bar? Or the eclectic American ten table restaurant? The lines are not always clear.

Add to that the standard individualized expectations that occur in all customer service scenarios — how fast should fast food be, just how casual is fast casual — and you can quickly see the challenges of the industry, challenges which have been exacerbated by a host of reality shows dedicated to chefs and restaurants that have turned millions of ordinary consumers into amateur restaurant critics. Read more

Is Twitter THE Channel for Customer Service? | Twitter Bird on Key of Keyboard

Is Twitter THE Channel for Customer Service?

Twitter understands that it is often a channel for immediate customer response, and it is not only embracing its role as a customer service channel but beginning to focus on selling itself as an indispensable channel for customer service.

Is Twitter THE Channel for Customer Service? | Twitter Bird on Key of KeyboardOn August 6th, Twitter released a Customer Service Playbook designed to convince organizations of Twitter’s importance as a customer service channel and to demonstrate how they can use the channel to generate effective results with customers.

Twitter makes the pitch this way:

The introduction of the 1-800 number changed the way brands approached customer service. In the nearly 50 years since, customer service hasn’t changed much, until now. We’re in the early days of the next revolution — customer service on Twitter.

To begin, Twitter has been used for customer service for so long now, that it seems odd for Twitter itself to proclaim a revolution this late in the game. But even if the revolution is already maturing into the status quo, Twitter is right that customer service communication has undergone a significant shift in the last decade. Read more

TMI from Frontline Reps; It's Deadly - Rep with hand over mouth

TMI from Frontline Reps; It’s Deadly

We’ve all had that awkward moment. We’re shopping in a store or asking about the product we ordered, and the frontline rep we’re interacting with starts to overshare. We hear about their life story, about the seven week saga that led to the order being delayed, or about how much they hate their job. It’s a case of TMI (too much information), and in customer service, it can be deadly.

Frontline reps share TMI in three primary ways:

TMI from Frontline Reps; It's Deadly - Rep with hand over mouth1. Too Much Personal Information

This is generally the most problematic form of TMI in customer interactions. Perhaps the rep is lonely, perhaps the rep simply lacks the social awareness to understand where to draw the line, but somehow the rep misses the clue that the customer does not want to hear their personal story.

No matter how bad their experience at the DMV was yesterday, no matter how much their foot hurts from their bunion surgery, the customer is not interested, and even if they might be, they should never have been put in the position to make that determination in the first place. TMI is simply not part of the professional relationship. Read more

When Bad Systems Happen to Good People | Person in Laboratory

When Bad Systems Happen to Good People

I needed to get some routine blood work done a few weeks ago, and the doctor recommended that I use the hospital network his practice was affiliated with. My schedule was packed and the hospital was not close, so I found a major testing company that was closer to home and gave them a call.

Bad Systems

I was greeted by an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system — nothing wrong with that, at first — but the IVR only gave me two choices: book the appointment using the phone keypad or book online. I had a question about my test however, and I needed to speak to a human. I was already tight on time, so I wanted to make sure my question was answered to avoid showing up at the lab and having to go back another day. Since I couldn’t get a human, I bailed on the private company and called the hospital my doctor had recommended.

“Bad” People

When Bad Systems Happen to Good People | Person in LaboratoryUpon calling the hospital, I was not confronted with bad systems but instead with less than helpful frontline reps. The person who answered the phone was rude at first but then, oddly, turned extremely nice. I’m not sure if she had started the call a bit distracted or her boss had just walked into the room. Certainly, it was not a great first impression, but it was one from which the hospital could have easily recovered.

If only.

I was then transferred to the lab itself. The rep who answered the phone in the lab was extremely curt. The entire conversation consisted of him replying in one word and short single sentence answers. The exchange gave me zero confidence in the lab, its professionalism, or its ability to perform tests properly.

Sadly, when we’re discussing healthcare, I believe that this type of unfeeling service becomes an ethical issue on some level. My tests were routine, but imagine those people recently diagnosed with an illness or calling for a sick child. A little compassion and communication is the least one would expect. Certainly, poor service in healthcare is not new (in fact, I have written about my ridiculous healthcare customer service story before), but it can really impact those on the receiving end in a way that bad customer service at the mall cannot.

In healthcare, a little customer service can go a long way. Read more

Are You Customer Service Reps Eating the Marshmallow | Picture of Marshmallow | Walter Mischel's Marshmallow Experiment

Are Your Customer Service Reps Eating the Marshmallow?

In yesterday’s Monday Motivation, a Monday email sent to subscribers to our eNewsletter The Customer Conversation, we spoke about Walter Mischel’s famous  experiment on self control and delayed gratification in children. Here is part of the email:

Are You Customer Service Reps Eating the Marshmallow | Picture of Marshmallow | Walter Mischel's Marshmallow ExperimentResearcher Walter Mischel at Stanford devised an ingenious experience back in the Sixties to test self control and the ability to delay gratification in children. He put a marshmallow in front of a child and told them they could either eat the marshmallow or wait up to 20 minutes and then get two marshmallows. Most kids couldn’t do it.

However, a few could, and the researchers found something interesting about those who could: later in life, they seemed more successful, across every metric measured, than those who could not delay gratification. Those who gave in quickly… Read more

One Company's Inattention Is Another's Opportunity

One Company’s Inattention Is Another’s Opportunity

A few weeks ago, I stopped by a big box electronics store to make a quick purchase. I had dropped my wife at an appointment and decided to run a few errands until she was done. In this brief trip, I was reminded of how damaging it can be to ignore customers.

One Company's Inattention Is Another's OpportunityI was shopping for a Bluetooth speaker system. I had purchased a larger set of Bluetooth speakers two years ago, as we wanted something loud enough to be used in the back yard. Unfortunately, the speakers I bought were the opposite of hassle-free, requiring a convoluted login and sync process using a computer. The settings never seemed to stick and the speakers have lain on a closet shelf for awhile now.

It was a bad purchase. Bluetooth should be plug and play, much like the cheap Bluetooth speaker I bought for about $15 one day and which has been nothing but a pleasure to use.

So, I was in the market for something in between: small speakers, that were plug and play, but that were powerful enough to cover the garage or backyard. Read more

A Hero-Class (R) Thank You! | Arms in Air on Mountaintop

A Hero-Class® Thank You!

Be Your Customer's Hero | Customer Service Book CoverNow that Be Your Customer’s Hero is on bookstore shelves and being used by frontline customer service professionals across the country (and the world!) to help them deliver Hero-Class® customer experiences, I wanted to take a moment to publicly thank some important friends and colleagues who played a part in HERO.

Many of those listed below were listed in the acknowledgements section of Be Your Customer’s Hero, but so much of the work surrounding a book happens after publication that I wanted to acknowledge those who not only helped build the rocket ship but also those who helped to get it off the ground!


A Hero-Class (R) Thank You! | Arms in Air on Mountaintop As I mentioned in the Acknowledgments in HERO, “Writing is a solitary endeavor, but producing a book requires the efforts of a team.”

So, a very sincere thank you to the HERO team — to all of the friends and colleagues who helped make Be Your Customer’s Hero a reality and to all of those who have purchased HERO for themselves and their staffs. I am truly grateful for your counsel, encouragement, and support! Read more

Should Customer Service Reps Start with their Best Offers? | People at table talking

Should Customer Service Reps Start with their Best Offers?

Customer service in the real world sometimes comes down to a negotiation. When you have an issue to resolve, often you and your organization are trying to find a way to make the customer happy without giving away the store and the customer (usually) is trying to get what she feels is fair.

While I don’t think negotiation is the best framework for viewing these situations, the underlying dynamic can be remarkably similar. In a negotiation, one generally tries to get as much as possible and give as little as possible. A customer service issue is similar, but different. While your goal should not be to get as much as possible from the customer; it can often be to limit how much you give in order to satisfy him.

Should Customer Service Reps Start with their Best Offers? | People at table talkingIn this way, the dynamics of negotiation can have very real implications for customer service, and the techniques and stratagems of negotiation can be useful. Read more

Turning a Customer Service Culture

Turning a Customer Service Culture

We wish that changing a customer service culture could be like turning a Jet Ski®.

Turning a Customer Service CultureWe slam the steering handles hard to the side, the Jet Ski® turns around almost on a dime, and within moments, we are speeding the other way at full speed. Sure, the turn is tough, and the sudden motion jerks both body and watercraft hard, but for a short, intense effort we are rewarded with a quick and complete turnaround.

We all wish that changing a customer service culture happened that way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Changing a a customer service culture, particularly in a large organization, is more akin to turning around a container ship. Take a look at the following graphic from ShipsBusiness.com. Note the slow wide path the ship must take to head in the other direction. In fact, notice that it has to “swing wide” to even begin to change direction. Read more

How Customer Service Can Save Cable

How Customer Service Can Save Cable

How Customer Service Can Save CableIn the Temkin Group’s 2015 Experience Ratings Industry Snapshots, Internet Service Providers were ranked last out of 20 different industries. It’s no surprise; few people love their cable or phone provider, and among the least beloved is Comcast.

Comcast announced recently that it will be putting a massive effort behind changing its customer service. The announcement will come as welcome news to many Comcast customers. In the last few years, Comcast has become the poster child for terrible customer service provided by a faceless corporation with captive customers. Its poor customer service ratings have been magnified and made archetype by a succession of viral customer service stories like this one about a recorded call with a Comcast phone rep and this one a few months later.

Comcast, like its fellow cable providers, has enjoyed a coveted market position: it could give bad customer service and still remain highly profitable. Each industry is different, but oligopolistic firms who are absent competitive pressure and that have customers who are captive or have significant switching costs can get away with poor customer service–in the short term. Read more