Successful staffing 1: Maximising your staff's customer communication skills

Key Points

  • If you’re not making sure your staff’s customer communication skills are up to scratch, you run the risk of losing patronage and hence profits    
  • In contrast, superior staff customer service skills can actually help you retain business even when things go wrong
  • We’ve compiled a list of five key areas where you can make sure staff are performing at their peak in delivering customer satisfaction
  • From creating a fantastic first impression to making sure staff understand the etiquette of food serving, these elements are important in ensuring a seamless dining experience for your customers
  • From creating a fantastic first impression to making sure staff understand the etiquette of food serving, these elements are important in ensuring a seamless dining experience for your customers         

WE ALL KNOW HOW IMPORTANT CUSTOMER SERVICE is for any foodservice business – but are you doing all you can to make sure your staff’s customer communication skills are up to scratch?

If not, you run the risk of losing patronage and hence profits. Research consistently shows that the number one reason that foodservice businesses lose customers is due to bad customer service. That doesn’t necessarily mean slow service – in fact, customers are more likely to be forgiving of slow service times (especially during busy periods) when they’re getting friendly, personable service from your staff. Superior staff customer service skills will help you retain business even when things go wrong – whether due to staff shortages, late or missed product deliveries, misheard orders or any of the other problems which plague foodservice business from time to time.

Here are five key areas where you can make sure staff are performing at their peak in delivering customer satisfaction:

1. Create a fantastic first impression. From the moment the customer steps through the door, your staff should be setting the scene for a respectful and pleasant dining experience. That means ensuring the customer is politely greeted, that staff pay attention to what they want (including any specific requests regarding seating, dietary requirements and so on), and that they are able to answer questions about your menu clearly and accurately.

2. Make sure staff understand the etiquette of serving food. Not only should staff be well-groomed and suitably attired to evoke a professional appearance, they need to be across the established etiquette around serving food – and this is an area where many foodservice businesses fall down. Watch your staff serving customers and check to see whether they’re serving the women before they serve the men; that they serve and clear food from the diner’s left of the diner, and aren’t reaching over them to take empty glasses or plates; and that they’re keeping an eye on tables so that customers aren’t having to continually try to attract their attention every time they want to order another drink.

3. Initial order items should be served promptly. Remember that first impressions count the most. Whatever your customers order first – whether it’s drinks, salad or entrée – make sure that it’s served quickly. Customers know how long it takes to fetch a drink from the bar or fridge and don’t expect to have to wait ten minutes for it! Remember also that customers are likely to be hungryso if there’s likely to be a delay in preparing their food (for example, orders are stacked up in the kitchen due to staff shortages), staff should let them know and if possible suggest alternative items on the menu which can be prepared more quickly.

4. Identify problems quickly and don’t delay trying to rectify them. No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid the occasional error. Wait staff may mis-hear, mis-remember or mis-communicate an order, there may be a mix-up in the kitchen or something may simply be forgotten. The important thing is how you respond to such problems: the quicker the better. The longer you leave a problem, the bigger it can become in the mind of your customer – after all, no one likes to have their concerns ignored. So make sure your staff know how to deal appropriately with complaints: acknowledge any mistakes upfront, apologise and try to find a mutually acceptable solution. It’s important for staff to try to empathise with the customer in such situations and solve any problems as quickly as possible.

5. Ask for customer feedback. Show your customers that you value their opinion by training staff to ask for feedback not just on the meal but on the quality of service and the overall dining experience. Make sure your customers know that you’re dedicated to making their next visit to your business even better that the last one! If you have a Facebook page or Instagram feed, let customers know and encourage them to leave their comments about their meals.