I went out for a meal a couple of months back in Kuwait where I am currently doing some consultancy work. A group of us decided to try out the plethora of eating establishments in the local shopping mall. All the restaurants seemed busy competing for customers as they walked through the mall. We chose a large Lebanese style restaurant with a fantastic large kitchen at the rear that was open to the tables so that you could see the chefs all preparing and cooking food. The waiters all seemed under pressure to serve their respective tables, rushing around looking flustered, but mine seemed happy to stay a while with me at the table and talk. I found out he was actually the owner of the restaurant, so in some ways, he was leading the way as well as finding out at the ‘coal face’ what his customers were saying and thinking about his business.
I asked him how he felt he was doing and he replied by saying that in his competitive market he needed to make the effort, a real effort – constantly. He had 5 Golden Rules that he sought to apply every day in order to stay in front of his rivals, and he spread these to his staff to employ as well. These were:
Improve – always aim to get better (excellence is good enough) and seek diligently to discover ways in which you might do even better each time.
Observe – talk and watch the people you work with and your customers (and most important listen to them).
Connect – treat everyone with respect (make them feel ‘special’) like they were your best friends.
Adapt – uncertainty appears to be the new ‘norm’ today so prepare to be nimble and flexible at all times.
Smile – Smiling opens up an inter-personal ‘contract’ with your customers, and allows you to come to them from a heart based perspective.
I thought about what he said and started to apply that to my interactions with customers and clients. It made an immediate impact as I started to win more business but more importantly, it helped me to retain the clients that I already had. I also felt good about what I was doing; customers became friends rather than solely a means to sustain the bottom line that only shows impersonal figures, targets and forecasts.
Although they are simple ‘rules’ to follow, they have to be diligently applied and constantly reviewed with self-feedback as well as gaining customer review to see if you are hitting the nail on the head each time. Try these out, believe me they work! If you are working in the service industry, remember that's exactly what you must do – serve, but in such a way that you connect strongly with your customer to create an atmosphere that is bother interesting and productive every time.