Dine out on good habits

Back in the good old days (remember them?) when we could nip out for a meal and a cheeky glass of wine on a whim, it was the little things that separated the five-star review from the bad taste left in the mouth.

Dine out on good habits

Back in the good old days (remember them?) when we could nip out for a meal and a cheeky glass of wine on a whim, it was the little things that separated the five-star review from the bad taste left in the mouth.

The quality of the food helped, for sure. You don’t need to either of be the two blokes off Masterchef to discern between something carefully prepared to be Michelin-star worthy and a dish defrosted that deserves to remain in a deep freeze. A little ambience helps too. Plus decent decor that hasn’t been splashed around the walls like a mis-directed bottle of ketchup.

Yet so often, it’s the small personal touches from the staff on the front line that make or break. A warm welcome. Attentive responses. Knowledge with a dash of personality. Even a sure touch when things go wrong. 

To err is human. Clean up the mistake with an apology and appropriate speed and forgiveness shall be yours. Service with a smile is the inexpensive extra on the bill that adds all the extra value in the world. A priceless side order that complements all else on the menu.

Having gorged ourselves over Christmas and New Year because … let’s face it, it was the best option out there … this January is the ideal time to get back to instilling healthy habits. A resolution that actually transforms, refreshing your customer service culture so that it feeds the growth of your business rather than leaving it to run on empty.

2020 was a strange old year for many reasons but how we interacted with our clients posed one of the greatest challenges. The abrupt reimagining of that relationship proved make or break for so many. From storefronts and meeting rooms to clicks and chats over Zoom

Kitchens remain substitute call centres. But amid the upheaval, one consistent wish: we expect care and attention from supplies and partners. Allowances made, of course. But ultimately, there remains an appetite for those who feed our desire to be treated well. 

That starts internally before it ever reaches outside the (virtual) walls. We paper our company values at SmartPA on our walls and our website. Three of them, front and centre in what we do.

Here’s a secret: we actually have a number four. ‘We give a <something that rhymes with Bit>. It’s embedded in the way we operate every day. Standard, you’d think. Or at least it should be. But it means truly owning the wants and expectations and (occasional) problems of our customers and proactively doing everything possible to leave them feeling valued and supported.

There’s no script or seamless template. We all aspire to have customer care ratings to match the likes of Apple or perennial table-topping choice First Direct. Ultimately, the essence of getting it right is to set benchmarks of our own. Beg, borrow and steal ideas, naturally. But we are the only people who know where we should be and what our clients expect and deserve.

Bad practice is expensive in so many ways. The majority of studies report that over 70 per cent of customers will sever ties with a company if they are dissatisfied with the customer service they receive.

With limitations at present in some sectors in attracting new customers, it is more vital than ever to cherish the ones we possess. Losing one to a competitor bites twice. Ceding market share is painful. But, thanks to the ubiquitous online review, word spreads cancerously too. 

It’s estimated that just a mere four per cent of the offended report poor service directly. Any apology will come too late to undo the cyber-damage done. Worst of all, there may be no feedback at all, an unseen virus running amok. And we all know how nasty that can be.

The best part is great service is reflective too. Kindness externally translates to the manner we treat our colleagues and the appreciation we gain from our roles. Five-star reviews are moments to celebrate, to say well done, and also to push our bar a little higher still. Staff may strive to excel so that such moments regularly come along. 

But nothing motivates more than someone else loving what we provide and the personal input on that journey. Happy employees lead to happy clients, and vice versa. The culture that underpins how we treat our people will inevitably impact on the client experience.

So, train well. Reinforce and repeat the lofty standards expected. Set goals, measure and reflect. Yet most of all, appreciate that the best dishes are served up to perfection when ingredients are mixed together with diligence and not a little flair. We can all dine out when that happens. Bon appetit!

Sarra Bejaoui
Sarra Bejaoui

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