In Part 1 of “Lessons Learned in 25 Years” in hospitality, I shared with you what my employees and coaches have taught me about leadership and management of teams. Here then is Part 2 – a look at what I’ve learned from working with the public and some great customers over the years.

  1. Make it easy for clients to do business with you. Show them you’re taking the worry from their minds by having systems on your end to cover every detail. Clearly outline that you’ve thought of everything including a Plan B.  Most people don’t think of Plan B. We did and it always paid off for us.
  1. Do everything you can to ensure your customer looks Great!If you have their back and they in turn look great to their clients, bosses and guests, you will look good too and book more business with them!
  1. In every setting whether onsite or in a planning meeting be sure to greet customers by their names and with direct eye contact. Train your people to know the names of the person or people who booked your services. And for respect-sake, try to use their surname unless they tell you otherwise.
  1. Make it personal – Note the little things about each client’s likes and dislikes and then act on it. For instance, do they have a favorite beverage (yes, there is a big difference between the two major diet soft drink brands); did their daughter recently start college, then ask about it. The little civilities will go a long way.
  1. And speaking of the little niceties, we’re in the food business so why not use your food to say, “thank you.” Whether that’s a complimentary food item for an event, a special gift at the end of the event; a follow up gift of cookies or partnering with a preferred vendor to send something special, these little details can make big things happen.
  1. Ask your customer’s opinion on how you’re doing and listen! This makes them feel that we truly care about our services and their satisfaction. And when they give you an idea that improves your services, let them know with a thank you.
  1. Mistakes happen – be sure you take responsibility and make it right. Don’t apologize with an excuse. Wowing them a little can’t hurt, show them not only that you want to make it right, you want to really make it right. Have them walk away thinking, “if this is how they take care of us when they mess up, I can’t wait to see what they do when everything is great!”
  1. Follow through on your promises. I can’t stress this enough. Do what you say you are going to do and when you are going to do it. And then, make it happen. It’s that simple. Sometimes you can’t do what you said, tell them, immediately and give an alternative solution. If you must push a deadline or you don’t have the answer yet, be proactive with them, let them know the progress and when you will be back to them.
  2. Be flexible with last minute changes and embrace them. This was one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn. Often the request is coming from someone else, a boss, a spouse or who knows – be sure to practice the art of professionalism all the time. However, also try hard not to let them walk all over you with changes. Sometimes you do need to put your foot down, just do it gently and with a smile.
  1. Make them feel like they’re your only client because in fact at that point in time, they are. Focus all your attention on the customer, especially during meetings, phone calls and of course on-site visits. Show that you are knowledgeable about their needs and are really listening to them.
  1. Try to think one step ahead of them – being proactive, not reactive; Anticipatory service is one of the highest forms of service that we teach in staff training. The goal is for your staff to anticipate the needs of your guests by reading body language, listening for cues and being completely prepared. Your clients will be wowed if it seems like they never have to ask for anything, because you’ve already thought of it for them.
  1. Listen to what is important to your customer about the products and services you offer. Fully understanding what they’re telling you will create loyal fans. Why? Truly listening shows that you care and that it is always their event and never yours.
  1. Create friends and not just clients. It’s about being genuine, authentic and empathetic with every client. When you do this, trust happens. And when trust happens, friendships blossom.

While you may think all these points are “common sense,” I challenge you to make them “common practice.” Once you make them common practice, they will become part of your Standards of Excellence.

So, what have you learned from your customers? Are you putting it into practice? Do you act on feedback? Sometimes your customers can be your best teachers.

Note: Bob will be presenting two seminars at Catersource 2020 and will be onsite with the CCC team throughout the conference.

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