Excellent customer service is crucial for the restaurant and hospitality industry. In a highly competitive market, happy customers can play an important part in a restaurant's reputation, credibility and visibility. It is estimated that a customer will tell around nine people about a good customer service experience. Conversely, they would tell an average of 16 people about bad customer service. So it pays to devote your attention to delivering exceptional customer service.
For many in the industry, it is easy to talk about the difference between great and poor customer service. However, to consistently provide excellent customer service is harder to achieve in practice. Everyone's version of great customer service is subjective and can be affected by how they feel on the day.
Take our 12 most important elements of customer service and apply them to your restaurant mission and values for the best chance of success.
12 Key Elements of Excellent Customer Service
- Prioritise your customers needs first
- Put emphasis on quality over quantity
- Ensure process efficiency
- Be accessible
- Clarify the customer's goals and roadblocks
- Clear communication and methods
- Prioritise timely responses
- Respond with expertise
- Have emotional intelligence
- Be interpersonal
- Take responsibility
- Gather feedback and learn
1. Prioritise your customers needs first
Customers are the most important asset of any business and customer satisfaction is an essential part of what makes a successful restaurant. The food and dining experience is the core of a restaurant concept but the product is worthless without excellent customer service.
Every element of your business needs to come back to "how will this affect our customers?". From making supply chain decisions to menu engineering, putting your customers' satisfaction as your ultimate goal will help steer your whole business.
This customer-centric approach will foster a service that is proactive rather than reactive. It will ensure your customer service team is ready to meet customer expectations and make them feel valued. From the moment your diner enters the door, they will experience a unique service that was designed for them and you will increase your chances of customer loyalty.
2. Put emphasis on quality over quantity
As a business, there is always a goal to increase sales and profitability. However, it is important to remember that customers expect quality service as part of their meal, they do not dine out simply to refuel. Therefore, even in busy periods, it is important to place emphasis on high-value customer interactions and not rush them through.
Train your customer service representative to listen and understand your customer needs and provide personal responses. Strive to genuinely connect with your customers rather than merely processing a high volume of transactions. By valuing quality over quantity, you can build a reputation of a restaurant with outstanding service which can lead to positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals. Ultimately, a quality service will lead to increased sales through a loyal and satisfied consumer base.
3. Ensure process efficiency
This step comes back to putting your customers' needs first. Customers expect efficient service and every process behind the scenes will affect your ability to deliver this.
By streamlining procedures and workflows, you will minimise wait times and reduce the chance of frustrated customers. Achieving this involves the implementation of advanced technology to maintain accurate data and enhance collaboration between your departments. ResDiary reservation software allows you to streamline your table management, inventory management and employee performance data. With accurate data and advanced technology, you can speed up your processes, giving your team more time to focus on quality service.
It is important to continuously assess your workflows to ensure they are optimal and identify any bottlenecks or areas for improvement. By regularly reviewing and refining your processes, you can maintain efficiency and deliver a seamless customer experience.
4. Be accessible
There is nothing more frustrating than a business you can't get in touch with, especially in a time when most things are accessible at the touch of a button. Being accessible is another critical component of excellent customer service as it shows your customers that you care and welcome them.
You can achieve this by ensuring your business website is up-to-date, visible to increase traffic and your online business listings are accurate. Integrate ResDiary software to offer a 24-hour booking service so you can attract customers at any time from your website, Google and social media. Our ResPhone feature can service customers who prefer to call and can feed into your restaurant availability data to provide accurate responses and customer service, even when your restaurant is closed.
5. Clarify the customer's goals and roadblocks
As previously mentioned, good customer service is subjective and being flexible can make all the difference to your diners. Try to be proactive and clarify your customers expectations from the first interaction so you can tailor your service where you can. This can include recommending menu items that align with their dietary preferences or restrictions, suggesting special promotions or offers that align with their interests, or providing additional information or resources to help them make informed decisions.
When handling customer complaints, start by listening intently to the customer's problem and identify the roadblocks in place. This will help you come up with a personal solution, rather than rushing forward to implement an adequate fix.
6. Clear communication and methods
Customer service interactions can come in many forms, from answering telephone queries to replying to social media comments. It is important to be adaptable to any communication channel and ensure all replies are clear.
The 7-38-55 rule in communication states that only 7 percent of meaning is taken from our spoken word, 38 percent from our tone of voice and 55 percent through our body language. Therefore, a customer interaction could be received and interpreted before any words are spoken. It is of utmost importance that new team members are trained on communication skills and the customer support team have regular refresher training. Ensuring all body language and tone of voice is welcoming will ensure your customer's understand your intent.
7. Prioritise timely responses
In today's fast-paced world, customers expect prompt responses to their inquiries and feedback. Delayed responses can lead to frustration and a negative perception of your business. To communicate in a timely manner, consider implementing the following practices:
- Establish clear response time goals and communicate them to your team to ensure accountability.
- Train your customer service team to respond promptly to customer inquiries through various channels, such as phone calls, emails, and social media messages.
- Utilise ChatGPT and other AI Tools for quick response ideas and editing replies.
- Monitor and track customer inquiries and feedback to identify any trends or recurring issues that need to be addressed.
By prioritising timely responses, you demonstrate to your customers that their concerns are important to you and that you value their time. This can help build trust and loyalty to increase customer retention.
8. Respond with expertise
Customers expect their waiters and bartenders to have knowledge of the products and services. It enhances their dining experience when a server is able to provide knowledge on the food, pair a wine or describe the chef's technique. Use this as an opportunity to take pride in your restaurant and train your employees to become experts.
It is important to note that this does not mean that you and your team need to know everything. An element of being knowledgeable is also being honest. Customers value honesty and would rather you take the time to find the right answer than fumble your way through.
9. Have emotional intelligence
It is estimated that the way we feel has 1.5 times more impact on our decision making than the way we think. Therefore, it's essential to use empathy to connect with the emotions and experiences of your customer and provide compassionate and personalised responses.
This can be done proactively by asking them why they are dining out, be it a special occasion or a need for social interaction. Listening to their answer will allow you to provide a more personal and meaningful interaction rather than an impersonal customer service script.
When handling complaints, empathy plays a huge part in being able to resolve any problem. Sometimes people just want to be heard so actively listening without judgement will allow you to offer them the reassurance they need.
10. Be interpersonal
No two customers are the same and not everyone wants to be treated in the exact same manner. The way you interact with a group birthday booking may be very different to the way you communicate with a couple dining for their 40th wedding anniversary. Both groups of customers deserve good customer service and respect, but your interpersonal skills will allow you to adapt to what that means to them.
When training your restaurant team, ensure you encourage flexibility in your brand's customer service style. Allowing your waiters or bartenders to deliver a range of personal customer service expectations, from injecting a little humour to being extremely formal, will allow them to match your customers needs.
11. Take responsibility
Mistakes are bound to happen and shying away from that can cause a customer to lose trust. Taking responsibility when you need to will show your customers that you value their business and build a great foundation for your customer relationships.
To take responsibility for mistakes, consider the following steps:
- Acknowledge the mistake and apologise sincerely to the customer.
- Listen to the customer's concerns and validate their feelings.
- Take immediate action to correct the mistake, offering a solution or compensation if appropriate.
- Communicate transparently with the customer, keeping them informed of the steps you are taking to resolve the issue.
- Follow up with the customer to ensure that they are satisfied
12. Gather feedback and learn
Potential customers will look up a restaurant's reviews before deciding to dine. They are not looking for five star perfection, they are looking to understand not only what is good, but how the business treats feedback from customers. Asking for reviews, regardless of the rating, is an opportunity to refine your dining experience and showcase your good customer service skills online.
Offer multiple communication channels for customers to provide feedback, from your website, Dish Cult, Google or Yelp. You can even encourage them with incentives or rewards for leaving reviews. Remember to reply to every single feedback post to provide excellent customer service.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you train customer service representatives to prioritise quality over quantity?
In the restaurant industry, training staff to prioritise quality over quantity is crucial as it will affect your overall dining experience. Consider the following training tips:
- Provide incentives for customer satisfaction reviews.
- Practise role-play scenarios and provide feedback.
- Encourage thorough attention to details and not just table turnover.
- Provide in-depth product knowledge including menu and drink tastings.
- Set clear goals and rewards.
- Share customer feedback.
Why is good customer service important?
Retaining customers is more cost effective than constantly marketing for new customers. Satisfied consumers are more likely to become repeat customers and promote your business with word-of-mouth referrals. In this digital world, everyone has access to platforms like social media and can share their dining experience with thousands of people. Providing excellent customer service continuously is incredibly important for your reputation.
Ultimately, good customer service will impact your restaurant concept and the dining experience you want to deliver. Focusing on this will lead to long-term success and a sustainable growth in your profits.
How Can Software Affect Customer Service?
You may think of software as a backend necessity, but restaurant software can directly impact your customer service. ResDiary is a hospitality reservation platform, but it's many features improve efficiency across many areas, such as:
- Bookings 24/7 - Allow your customers to book a table at any time of day by integrating ResDiary with your website, Google, social media etc.
- ResPhone - Don't miss a customer call again, allow ResPhone to give personalised answers and accurately access your table availability to help customers.
- Online menu - Keep your menu up to date online and keep your customers happy. You can take online pre orders, takeaways and deliveries all from one software platform.
- Boost customer loyalty - Promote your restaurant with gift vouchers, loyalty cards and rewards system with ResDiary.
- Efficient Integrations - ResDiary can integrate with POS Systems, inventory management, employee management and many more to provide data accuracy across all workflows. Take the stress away from your restaurant manager so they have more time to concentrate on your customers.