Hotel F&B Observer Blog

Hotel food and beverage professionals share experience, skills and commentary. These hotelier blogs reflect a variety of unique career perspectives and real-life workplace stories, observations and opinions.

Your Customer Doesn’t Care About You and How To Fix That

Life has a funny way of throwing us curve balls.  Things never seem to go as planned or as we hoped.  It’s understandable that we would become discouraged or upset when this happens and take our problems to work.

“I’m going to speak with Sheila when I get to work, she is always good with things like this,” you may say.  You get to work, punch in, and start your shift at the restaurant or customer service desk.  As soon as Sheila arrives you start to tell her your problems, diligently waiting for her sound advice.

But what you fail to realize is that phones are ringing, customers are waiting in line, and they are getting upset. Upset that the person that should be taking care of them is more focused on their own issues than providing service to the cash-paying customer.

The customers don’t care about our problems, should they?

When has it become acceptable to start or enter into a non work related conversation with a fellow employee when you are “on the floor”?

How can you realize if your guests are in need of something or if their food is waiting under the kitchen heat lamp when you’re talking about your date last night or your favorite football team?  The goal of any business is to provide the highest level of service to their customers but how can you, as the business representative, do this if you are not paying attention to your guest!

“Yeah, but I just left my table, they were fine.  I refilled their water and bread basket and asked if they needed anything else.  What more do you want from me?” you may say.

You must be laser-focused on the customer, from the moment they enter your business until they leave!

Do you think that when some star baseball player is in the batting cage he is BS’ing about the vacation he just returned from?  Do you think that when that lead guitarist from the big rock band is on stage he would lean over to his band mate to tell him about the new car he just bought?  Do you think that actress on stage at the award show will pull out her cell phone and show us photos of her new puppy?  I don’t think so.

How do you think they got to where they are?  By taking their job as serious as a heart attack.

By focusing on what they need to get better at and devoting all their efforts to make it happen.  By paying attention to the task at hand.

Your task at hand is the customer in front of you.

Remember, the customer doesn’t care about your needs or your problems.  They only care about their needs.  Who can blame them?

When you are waiting in that long line at the supermarket the day before a big holiday, do you care that the cashier has been standing there for the past 3 hours scanning items and filling bag after bag of groceries?

Heck no, you just want to get out of there.  “What’s taking her so long” you are saying to yourself.  “I’ve got things to do and don’t feel like spending all day here.”

Well that’s what your guests are saying to themselves as well when they are looking around the restaurant for you.  “I want to place my order, where’s the waiter?”  “Can’t I get a refill on my coffee, where’s the waiter?”  “Come on man; bring back my credit card I want to go home”.

This is what’s happening in the mind of your guest when you are not around and they need you.  Don’t get into side conversations with your work buddies, your guests don’t care about that.  Don’t complain to your bartender friend about your problems, your guests don’t care about that either.

A few other things your guests don’t care about…

  • Your alarm didn’t go off so you overslept and were late for work.  So now your boss gave you the worst closing assignments.
  • You got stuck at your “other job” so you rushed over here and didn’t have time to shave in between jobs.  You look like hell.  The customers should not have to be served by some scruffy-looking dude.
  • You just had a fight with your boyfriend and are now mad at the world and really don’t want to smile or greet the customers in the normal manner.
  • Your car got repossessed and you need to wait for a friend to take you home.  She just called you to say she will be really late and that’s going to mess up the rest of your day.
  • Your mind is somewhere else because you have a lot of homework to do after your shift and finals are next week.

You may have your own stuff to talk about but not during working hours.

Be professional.  Describe a few of the dishes in detail to your guests.  Show your guests you know the menu like the back of your hand.  They may want to try something different.  Tell them about the history of the restaurant.  Let them know about any upcoming special promotions planned.

Realize that your guests have their own issues, problems and concerns.  They must not be burdened with an inattentive employee too preoccupied to satisfy their needs.  Leave your troubles at home; put them in the trunk of your car when you drive to work.  Leave them on the bus; close them behind the train doors. Take them anywhere else but never to work.

Be “a person” to your guests, not just “the waiter”.  The customer may “like” a waiter but feel a connection to “a person”.  Treat them well and they will treat YOU well.

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Why You Can’t Be a Perfectionist Forever

One of the challenges faced by a perfectionist is longevity.

When we are younger and have energy to burn, we can relentlessly work through exhaustion and jump through hoops daily to achieve the perfection we seek. Usually this perfection is attained solely from our personal labor since “no one else can make it perfect but me.”

But as we move through time, we slow down enough to the point where we don’t have an unlimited supply of energy. Not enough time can be spent away from our family or illnesses arise that supply the setbacks of life.

This is when the perfectionist wishes that he/she had built a team around him so others can continue his dream of perfection. We can only do it all ourselves for so long. And be perfect for even less.

So have you built your team around you?

You haven’t? So how do you expect your business to prosper? How long can you do it all?

Your customers expect much from you, they look towards that perfection you offer, that you promote, that you insist will happen and that you will provide.  But is this realistic on behalf of the customer, of from you for that matter? Probably not. So why do we insist on being perfect and how will you get there all by yourself?

Most, if not all, of our customers don’t really believe all the hype that the average television commercial states or what that print ad promises. But they do want value. They need assurance that their money has been well spent and they desire a customer experience second to none. So how will you provide this by trying to be perfect?  You can’t, so stop trying.

Hire the best people, people with a customer-first mindset. Search for the candidates that are goal-oriented and “teachable.” You can always train them the necessary job skills but attitude, desire, forward thinking, and a heavy dose of common sense must already be present.

Encourage a group responsibility to look at a product or service challenge from all angles, especially from the customer’s point of view.  “What would I expect if I were buying this product?”  “How would I feel if I had to wait on hold for 20 minutes just to speak with a live person on the phone?”  “Are we delivering what we advertize?”  “Is this the best we can do?”

Before long you will be surrounded by a team of like-minded “ambassadors” who will treat your business as their own, for the good of the company and the customer.

Only then can you produce a product of the highest level and provide the best guest experience possible. It may not be perfection, but it will be close. And you will not have to do it alone anymore.

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Model the Octopus

Looking to take your leadership to the next level? Consider the octopus. Known to be the most intelligent of the ocean’s invertebrates, the following are a few parallels we can draw from our flexible-footed friends.

Don’t be afraid to raise a tentacle

Be known as the person who wants to be a part of everything. Keep enough focus in your primary area, but offer help elsewhere if possible. The best way to understand and learn other areas is to become a part of them. Volunteer (paid or unpaid) assistance for special projects, events, or just busy times. You may feel like an intern at first, but time working together builds bridges with people. It is amazing how quick some are willing to become mentors when approached in a sincere way. Most of us in the industry are passionate about what we do and want to help others up the ranks, just as people did for us. In some ways we feel we owe it to karma. Allowing others to see your strengths will put a thought in the back of their heads that might be awakened when the next rung of your ladder becomes available. Read more of this >>

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Humble Pie

All too often I speak with colleagues in the restaurant or retail business baffled by the loss of customer base.  For the life of them they cannot figure it out. They add product, change advertising methods, and make numerous updates to get customers in the door, but the real problem is they can’t keep them—no return interest.

They either refuse to notice or they simply don’t see that the problem is closer than they think.  Truth is that it is often their greatest investment—the staff. While lack of training is the first thought that comes to mind, you will find there is another staffing issue that customers find offensive and reproachable.  So what is it? Arrogant behavior, too superior to serve, expressed with a haughty facial expression and lack of attentiveness. Read more of this >>

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A Leader in Imperfection

I read a quote recently by John Maxwell, he says “You can measure a leader by the problems he tackles. He always looks for ones his own size.” Well, I should begin by informing those who don’t know me personally that I am 6’8”. Yes, I tend to hit my head often, and in case you’re wondering, the weather is fine up here. Although the quote may lead some to ponder the obvious, given a recent incident I encountered, I looked at it a little differently. Instead of thinking about the biggest external issues I face, I forced myself to look at the biggest internal issues I face. Not anyone’s favorite topic to think about.

It has been said that we are our own worst enemies. It has also been said that we are our own worst critics. I can say both of these things about myself. We all battle character flaws which prompt us to find some sort of handicap to help mask or shine the light away from them. These could be traits we are aware or unaware of; pride, jealousy, fear, inadequacy, the way we react to stress, or even anger can top this list. Read more of this >>

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Don’t Follow the Lemmings Over This Fiscal Cliff

I am glad our fellow trade bloggers are sharing their own experiences about leadership qualities, lax service issues, and trying to resolve ongoing unprofessional ineptitude.

This type of intramural communications volley permits us all to recognize these issues are constant reminders of (most likely) a lax management culture. Guess where all fingers are pointing.

Correct this apathy: business sustainability can only occur when professional standards are demanded. I don’t hesitate to submit constructive complaints on tabletop “comment cards” (for management). Question: do these cards really get to the correct decision-maker, especially when it’s usually the culprit server receiving the cards, and these go straight to the circular file in quick time? Read more of this >>

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I have a relative in her eighties. We had a chance to talk for an hour the other day. She was totally amazed by some of my restaurant stories and I with her’s.

• She had never operated a business
• She had never hired or fired anyone
• She never had to make a bottom or top line shine
• She never crawled under an ice machine
• She never unplugged a public toilet
• College was her fifth option
• She had never stopped a bar fight
• “86’d” was never in her vocabulary
• “You-bet-your-boots” has never been in my vocabulary
• I have never gone to night school while working full-time
• I have never served as a nurse
• I have never raised livestock nor brought it to market
• I have never shot a coyote
• I didn’t have to continue anything after my husband died
• My children have not all graduated from college
• My house is not completely paid for

In my job, I have met thousands, upon thousands of people, and maybe 15 would come to my funeral. Read more of this >>

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Customer Service, We Hardly Knew Ye

Recently, I was dining at a well known fish house and had a “service moment” like I had never experienced before. The quality and tone of the service was borderline indifferent, and each member of the staff seemed to be laboring under a dark cloud of discontent, as if they were all participants in a sort of global bad day festival. There was very thinly veiled back-biting and sniping going on; angry retorts to one another within earshot of the handful of Sunday mid-afternoon guests. Intermittently, our server seemed to disappear for several minutes at a time even though only a few tables were occupied. When she appeared again, she’d realize that the manager had refilled our drinks or cleared some plates and she would offer some explanation about the cause of her delay, often implying that others had dropped the ball.

The “service moment” that really struck me though came towards the end of the meal when, as my guest and I were just finishing our entrees, someone moved past our table in a blur and, without a word, tossed a dessert menu onto the table as they continued on their way. I was astounded at the overtness of the indifference but, unfortunately, what I find more and more in my service experiences these days is that indifferent or poor are often the norm and just-barely-adequate is becoming almost sought after. Read more of this >>

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