Do you know that feeling when you are sitting in a restaurant on a Saturday night with a group of family and friends checking out the menu and wondering what you will order?
You decide on a steak and order it medium to well done. Twenty minutes later the waiter comes back to the table with your food. At this stage, you’re really hungry and looking forward to your meal. However, your enthusiasm is curtailed, when you cut into the meat and discover the steak is rare. So, you call the waiter over, explain the situation and tell them you would like it a little more done.
The waiter stops momentarily, listens and says “right, okay, I’ll take it back”. They quickly lift the plate, turn around and dash back to the kitchen. All of this happens in less than 5 seconds.
As customers and consumers, we can all relate to these day-to-day examples. So, you sit there after the brief and fast encounter wondering what just happened? The waiter didn’t look at you, ask you any questions, offer you any options or more importantly show any understanding. You feel like a hindrance, an inconvenience and start to feel a little frustrated. Your contemporaries continue to eat and it is another 10 minutes before the waiter returns with the steak.
From the waiter’s perspective, they assume everything is fine because they are getting the problem sorted quickly. It is a busy Saturday night and have several other tables to serve. So they think the customer will and should understand they are busy. And sure, it was the chef’s fault anyhow - right?
In my experience, many of us immerse ourselves in the process and look inward when we are in “service mode”. As a result, we can lose our sense of understanding and become insensitive or even unaware to how we are really responding to customers.
In this example, I believe the waiter had good intentions and would not have even realised the impact of their reaction or even the lack of it. Yet, it is their lack of attention that can have a negative reaction, resulting in unhappy customers and a stressful situation.
As service providers, it is our job to make sure we are always “switched on” to service mode and in tune with our customers. We need to continuously put ourselves in their shoes and take a moment to acknowledge them before taking any action.
Customers want to be made feel special. They need to know that if they have a problem, they can trust us to fix it. And we can only do this, by showing them understanding and by making a connection.
In short, we have to “acknowledge the customer, before taking action”. And although, we might be busy, we might think a customer is being fussy or petty, it is not our place to judge them. We have to earn their respect and gain their trust. And once we do this, we too will be rewarded with much more pleasant customer experiences.
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