What I learned about customer services and getting repeat business from when I was a waiter

Posted by jasoneconomides

(I wrote this article for my friends at www.reconnectafrica.com – this article is reprinted here with kind permission)

When I work with young businesses I can’t help but think of my first training in customer service and sales.

I’m always amazed by how much easy low hanging business is lost by business owners skipping a simple that can and should be implemented every single day, and it costs nothing.

One of my first jobs was working as a waiter for a world-renowned Pizza restaurant chain.  We were trained to follow a very set and proven procedure to ensure the very best customer experience.  We were taught to greet customers within 30 seconds of them walking through the front door, seat them within two minutes, take their drinks and garlic bread order within five minutes, serve their drinks within seven minutes, serve their garlic bread within eight minutes and so on.  But two of the most important money making rules that we had to follow was to ensure that 1) we made regular eye contact with our customers every time we walked through the restaurant, and 2) regularly asked our customers if they wanted their drinks topping up.

Have you ever been in a restaurant where you were frantically waving and calling the waiter to come by just so that you could order another drink or order some more bread or just simply asking for your bill?  Frustrating right?  I remember a recent situation when I was in a restaurant where it took me 15 minutes to get the attention of a waiter just so that I could order a drink.  By the time I managed to get his attention, it was too late and I had to leave.  So not only was I frustrated and thirsty, but the restaurant lost out on additional EASY business too.

What steps can you implement in your business that would equate to keeping eye contact with your customers?  How many courtesy calls can you make this week just to see how they are getting on with your product or service? It takes little time and no money at all to do this yet the implication on your business is profound.

Following up regularly creates goodwill from your customer because you show that you care, and during that conversation you have the opportunity to offer additional products or services to your customer. Even if they’re not in a purchase mindset at that time they may know somebody that they want to recommend to you.

This is called the power of the follow up.  This is is the number one easiest way to create additional income for your business, yet 95% of businesses don’t seem to have any kind of follow-up system in place.

The question I then get asked on this subject is how much follow-up is too much follow-up?  The answer to that is…there is no such thing as too much follow-up. That doesn’t mean that you call your customer every three minutes, however calling them once or twice a week until you get hold of them is perfectly acceptable.  If they are an existing customer of course, you will already have trust built up with them. If your follow-up becomes too much, you can trust that your prospect or customer will tell you to stop calling them.  No harm done.

Studies have shown on average you need to follow up at least seven times before a customer or prospect places an order with you so it is a fatal business mistake to give up after the first telephone call.  Think of my example of the restaurant. Have you ever been in a restaurant when the waiter came round two or three times asking you if you want some more drinks, but each time you say no because you are not thirsty, but then on the fourth time you say yes?

You see the waiter doesn’t know when you’re going to be ready to order more drinks but he keeps checking in with you until he hits a time that you are thirsty.  This is no different to any other business. You need to keep contacting your customers and not only that, the customers actually expect you to do this.

A trap that many businesses get into is getting frustrated about business slowing down and constantly try to find new customers.  The question I always ask is have you served your existing customers to the maximum? The answer is almost always “no, I have some other service or product that some of my customers have not bought from me yet”. If you already have existing loyal customers make it your priority on Monday morning to select five customers at random and give them a call to follow up and see how they’re doing.

Existing customers are also a great source of information if you’re developing a new product or service. Why not ask the opinion of your existing clients about the new service you’re rolling out and what they think about it and the price you are offering it at?  Since they know you well and there is trust built up between you, you should hopefully get a good honest answer and be able to tweak your offering to maximise the chances of success.

It is always easier to get more business from existing customers, than getting new business from new customers.  So take a look at your last year’s order book, and see who you can call or meet up for a coffee.  Plan your follow up, get your diary out and actually write in the diary who you are going to call and when.

We hope you found this article useful, but remember it’s not the acquisition of knowledge that will generate you money, but the application of it. So if you found this article useful, then put it to Full Use, by grabbing your address book and diary, and get scheduling those follow up calls.  I use a really simple to use piece of follow up software to ensure I keep on top of my follow up list.  It’s so good in fact that we have partnered up with the company that provides the technology, and I am due to run a webinar with them where I will be demonstrating some simple follow up techniques, and how to use their technology to help keep up. Check them out: Contactually . It takes literally minutes to set up, and systemises all of your follow up integrating all of your email accounts, twitter, facebook and linkedin in one place – it’s truly unique I promise you.

Dedicated to your success!


P.S. Have you applied for your $5,000 educational grant for use towards coaching services?  We  have five grants available to be applied for every month.  There are no fees to apply, autorenews and it never has to be repaid.  Get yours here

P.P.S. Are you registered to attend our weekly Ask The Expert call, where you get to speak with me or one of my coaches, asking any questions you like on lead generation, converting customers, marketing strategies and any other challenges your business is facing?

One Response to “What I learned about customer services and getting repeat business from when I was a waiter”

  1. Alexandra Gibson said...

    I really like your point about the opportunities we are missing with current clients. These are people that have already hired you and do not require the initial rapport building.

    Sometimes people are afraid to appear pushy or salesy but the way I think of it is that it would be a disservice to that client to not let them know how something you offer could help them. If you have the solution to something you know they’re facing, why would you keep it to yourself?

    P.S.- thanks for mentioning Contactually too, Jason!

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