So you started a business based on the principle of delivering a great product at a great price. You know how important service is, so you did your research. You wrote an employee manual with specific instructions on how you want your guests to be served. Nothing could possibly stand in the way of happy customers lined up out the door waiting to give you their business, right? Wrong. Your theory is good, but you forgot to implement the tools needed to carry out a customer service program that guarantees customers are having the great experience you want to give them.
Simply having an employee manual and a plan for delivering great service isn’t enough. You need a way to create a culture of great service, and that takes time and attention. Let’s take a look at three key recommendations hospitality consultants give restaurant owners to help them develop a culture of service.
- Teach service every day
Sure, you took the effort to train all of your new hires. And they probably did a great job of following all your instructions in their first few weeks on the job. But let’s face it, people tend to slip into bad habits when you fail to constantly reinforce the elements of good service. They forget to smile to every guest and stop going the extra mile to delight the guests they serve. Or maybe they stop paying as much attention to their appearance and start showing up in a wrinkled uniform or a 5 o’clock shadow. These things all affect the customer experience and your bottom line.
- Establish clear expectations and practice transparent leadership
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well I gave them an employee manual and a week of training when I hired them, didn’t that lay out my expectations pretty clearly? I even wrote a section on employee discipline, so they can’t say my leadership isn’t transparent.” I’m not saying you’re wrong, but if you want to look at it from a pragmatic standpoint, you’ll have to admit that it’s just not realistic to expect your service staff to read and retain everything you put in a handbook. You need to establish and continuously reinforce your expectations and be very transparent in how you handle employee discipline. You may be completely justified in losing your temper and yelling at an employee for forgetting a service policy for the third time, but if your goal is to reduce staff turnover and cultivate a culture of service, there are better ways to go about it.
- Reward your team for great performance
In the same breath, it’s important to point out that employees who do provide great service and go the extra mile to delight your guests are deserving of recognition. That doesn’t mean you have to give them a big reward or special treatment. You might be surprised at how far a simple “Good job” in front of the rest of the team goes towards boosting morale – not only for the employee receiving recognition, but also for the rest of the team who sees that you’re taking note of everyone’s performance and appreciative of their efforts.
So how are you supposed to find time for all these things when you’ve got a million other things to do to keep your business running? Lucky for you, there’s an app for that.
In the past, business owners used to have their managers keep written journals of what went on during a shift. Those can still work, but c’mon. It’s 2015. What you really want is an application that empowers your managers and supervisors to document employee performance so you can better manage your guests’ customer experience. If only there were some type of digital logbook for managers where you and your team could record shift notes and employee conduct and you could access the information 24/7 from any device with an Internet connection…
Good news, there is! In fact, there are quite a few of them to choose from. You might even find it hard to pick the one that’s right for you. I’m not going to tell you which one is the best, but I will give you a few tips of what to look for.
- Look for a digital logbook that has a section devoted to documenting the customer experience. This will help you identify teaching points to follow up on. If you start to notice that managers are recording an increasing number of negative incidents, you can root out the cause of the negative experience and address it directly.
- Look for a digital logbook that has a section devoted to employee performance. Remember what we said about expectations and transparency? When you record disciplinary actions like verbal warnings for a sloppy appearance or being late for work, there are no surprises when more serious consequences come later down the road if the employee does not improve their performance.
- Look for a digital logbook that also lets you recognize great performance. Did an employee step up and demonstrate leadership or earn compliments from a guest for their great service? Record it and let your employee know you’ve taken note! And when you start to see a certain employee stand out in your digital log, you’ll know who to approach when it’s time to promote a new manager or supervisor.
So now that you’ve got a plan for creating a culture of great service and know what to look for in a tool to help you do it, all that’s left is to go out and find the one that’s best for you. Good luck!