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We were enjoying dinner in a chain restaurant earlier this year when we noticed the exceptional service that we were receiving from a young attendant, whom I will call “Josh.” Josh impressed us enough to inspire us to to pay more generously than is our custom (we generally tip at or above normal suggested to percentages). In fact, his service was so exceptional, that we thought Josh’s behavior would be a good example of fine customer service for a brief blog article about three simple things that anyone can do to make excellent impressions on customers.

The first thing that we noticed about Josh was the way he engaged us to take our orders. We are accustomed to looking up to attendants from our seats at restaurant tables, but Josh squatted down to meet us at eye level when he took our orders. He locked eyes with each of us as he took our respective orders and confirmed each order in detail before he finished taking the orders.

Josh’s second impressive behavior was his communication about the order status. Josh monitored on the order status and gave us a status report before it occurred to us to wonder about the order status. His status report gave us enough detail to adjust our expectations and continue our conversation without another thought about when the food would arrive.

Josh cemented our favorable impression of him throughout the remainder of the meal because of his excellent preparedness and attentiveness. Many restaurant attendants get caught up away from the table and miss the opportunity to present food to their customers, but Josh anticipated the meal delivery, prepared everything that we would need, and delivered each person’s meal as if he had rehearsed the delivery. Josh also surveyed the room constantly and maintained full awareness of each customer’s meal progress and needs. When the time came to request the check, a mere glance in Josh’s direction was all it took to summon him and he was ready to deliver the check without delay.

Customer service is a lifestyle of engagement, communication, attentiveness, and preparedness. Regardless of the situation or context, a “customer” can be any person whose favor toward you can improve the outcome of your experience in the situation. These are principles that Josh exhibited through his customer service:

  1. Josh engaged the customer personally in a way that confirmed that the engagement was active and meaningful. Everyone appreciates communication with someone who absorbs and confirms the communication personally, directly, and immediately. Josh made it clear that he received and understood our orders, and confirmed his understanding in a way that made us confident that we would receive professional service.
  2. If delivery cannot be provided immediately upon engagement (in such cases, service is not very important), prompt status communication maintains an active and effective engagement. It is better to report status before a report is generally due than to deliver an overdue report. Josh kept us up to date about the meal status so that we did think about it.
  3. Mediocre service may be “good enough” to complete the work, but it is neither memorable nor worthy of reward. Josh’s flawless anticipation and preparation of his delivery and attendance to his customers after the delivery earned him extra compensation and made a sufficient impression to inspire this article many months later.

We would love to eat at Josh’s restaurant again the next time we are in his city, but his career path will probably place him with greater responsibility and more lucrative compensation than his earnings as a restaurant attendant. Customer service masters usually move up the food chain rapidly because everyone wants masterful service.

 


Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers and active members of the Indiana State Bar Association and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Both lawyers are admitted to practice law in Indiana, and Jeff Hawkins is admitted to practice law in Illinois. Jeff is also a registered civil mediator, a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the Indiana Bar Foundation;  a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Indiana Association of Mediators; and he was the 2014-15 President of the Indiana State Bar Association.

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