How Good Is Your Customer Service?

Blog > Coffee Shop & Restaurant Operations > Training, Staff Management

Take a walk in your customers’ shoes to find out if your customer service needs improvement.

Be honest—when was the last time you met and chatted with one of your customers? If your answer is, “not lately,” you’re in the majority. But you’re also at risk of not knowing what customers experience when they frequent your café or restaurant—and not knowing what needs improvement will likely lead to a loss of business.

Not only should you sit down with customers once in a while to get their honest feedback, you should take on their experience as your own. There are several key ways you can do this, by walking in their shoes so you can feel exactly how they do, and learn from it.

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Among the many benefits of walking in your customers’ shoes:

· Uncovering possible problems with your products or services

· Finding better ways to engage with your customers

· Identifying what is working well and building on it

· Developing greater empathy for customers

· Finding out why you may be losing customers

Here are some great ways to learn your customers’ experience firsthand:

Play Undercover Boss

How do your employees treat your customers? If you’re treating your staff the way you want customers to be treated by way of example, and you’ve trained and empowered them to provide the best service to make any situation right (rather than hamstringing them with rigid policies), they’re probably doing a pretty good job.

But everyone is on their “A” game when the boss is around. (If also a bit nervous.) You need to know for sure how the ship is being sailed when you’re not around. We don’t suggest donning a costume and pretending you’re Joe Public, but you might want to give a friend a gift certificate for a coffee or a meal in exchange for their brutally honest feedback on your food and your staff’s customer service. Do this once a month or so, and ask them to visit at different times of day.

If you’re not comfortable having a friend go undercover, at least offer customers a free drink in exchange for filling out a brief survey through SurveyMonkey or another survey service. Hand out cards with the survey URL printed on them, and an offer for a “free drink for answering five quick questions.” Make the questions short and sweet, rating your business on a scale of 1-5 for cleanliness, friendliness, speed of service, food quality and atmosphere. Also provide them the opportunity to provide specifics (but don’t require these details as some folks hate longhand questionnaires.) When participants complete the survey, they’ll receive a coupon via email.

How’s the phone etiquette among your staff? Using a phone other than your cell, call your store with questions about hours, the menu, etc. How long does it take for your call to be answered? Is the employee friendly, patient, knowledgeable? Do they empathize with you? Call at various times of day. Especially test your staff’s over-the-phone customer service during your busy hours—but if your questions aren’t urgent and you’re dragging out the conversation, they should feel free to ask for your number so they can “call you back when the rush hour is over.” (Give them a fake call-back number, or again, have a friend do the detective work for you!)

Step Outside

Take a walk around the neighborhood near your establishment. Note the potential customers in your midst. Is there a church nearby that has a group meeting every Wednesday? Maybe run a special promotion for those members. Are there a lot of businesses nearby? Weekday lunch specials may be a way to lure them in.

Look at your nearby competition as well, noting what kind of customer they attract, what their menus are made up of, and what they’re charging. Also, notice how satisfied their customers look.

Mind Your Web Presence

How long has it been since you’ve tested the user-friendliness of your website—especially from a mobile device? Is it easy to navigate? If you accept reservations or sell merchandise online, how easy and accurate is the process? How many steps are required? Are packages sent out promptly? How soon are email questions answered?

Visit competitors’ websites and test their usability as well. You might get some good ideas that you can easily integrate into your own site.

Use the Data

After surveying customers and experiencing your establishment firsthand (or through friends), what’s the weakest area of your business? Is it customer service? Pricing? Consistency?

If your findings aren’t pretty, it’s time to inspire your crew anew! (Or revamp your menu, décor, etc.) Because there’s nothing more important than the customer experience. Once you’re armed with knowledge, create a plan to turn your weaknesses into strengths.

Now get out there and start talking and listening to your in-person and online customers! Put on their shoes and see their needs from their point of view. It may not be completely comfortable, but the insights you’ll gain will be invaluable—enabling you to make adjustments that will really satisfy them, and earning you greater loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion.

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