Tips for Improving Customer Service 3

Here’s a detailed list of some of the more effective service ideas in the business. Try ‘em if you like ‘em, and ditch ‘em if you don’t……


Teach team members to pay more attention to customers with the following game. At your next employee meeting, have someone interrupt your session by coming in with a covered tray. Under the cover are six different, even unusual, items. Display them for one minute, and then have the associate cover the tray and exit the meeting. Now, ask everyone at the meeting to write down everything they can about the person who was carrying the tray, not the items on it. The point is that too often we focus on what we’re trying to sell instead of the most important detail: the customer.

Use hospitable conversation starters

Making conversation with dozens of strangers hundreds of times a day is exhausting. I once was a doorman for the Fairmont hotel chain and had to be chipper and cheerful to hundreds of people for 30 seconds at a time every day. That’s tough. At the end of the shift, I had to wipe off the smile with a damp cloth. But our job in this business is to make strangers feel comfortable, so here are a few topics that relax customers and ease them into our hospitality:


  • Did you just get your hair cut? I like it!”
  • You look great! Have you been losing weight?”
  • That’s a cool tie.”
  • I love your earrings.”
  • I see you’re wearing an Indianapolis Colts shirt. Are you from there?”


Cute kids.”

How old are they? I’ve got two at home about the same age.”

Recognize first-time customers

If you could identify every first-time customer in your restaurant or deli, you’d be a winner. It costs six times as much money to acquire a new customer than to keep the one you’ve already got, so we’d naturally try to do everything we could to treat the new customer with a good deal of hospitality to get them to return. When you see someone in your restaurant, and you’re not sure if they’ve visited before, don’t say, “Have you ever been here before?” Because if they have, you’ll look, sound and feel a bit foolish. Instead, say, “You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” That phrasing assures a positive response no matter how they answer. If they indicate this is their first visit, maybe buying them an appetizer or dessert is an appropriate how-do-you-do.

Control your emotions with angry customers

Nobody likes arguing, least of all with a customer. Most confrontations can be resolved amicably if employees keep their cool, although some customers do cross the line from civility to verbal abuse. How do you keep emotions in check and customers happy? When confronted with an angry or confrontational customer, teach your employees to ask themselves a question: “Is this a problem customer, or is this person a customer who has a problem?” If you can get a grip on your emotions, you can then work on a solution.

Never lick your fingers at work

‘nuff said.

Refrain from calling customers “guys”

Ladies and gentlemen are the preferred forms of address.

Refrigerate After Serving

Buy small plastic frames with magnetic backs with your restaurant’s name and phone number on them. Take a Polaroid of your customers having fun or celebrating a special occasion at your restaurant, stick it in a frame, and give it to them to take home and put on their refrigerator.

Add flair to the customer’s experience

Adding flair to your service delivery and business turns customers on. Just think of how Herb Kelleher has transformed the humdrum world of airlines by adding a little flair to Southwest Airline’s operations. Here are some simple ideas to try:

See better

Have a few pair of reading glasses handy for customers who left theirs at home. They cost around $8 each and will help guests read those great menu descriptions you’ve compiled.

Merchandise the menu

Servers should be taught to suggest their best to every guest. Sample food with them and train your team before every shift to practice ways they can suggest and sell more food and beverage to every customer. Servers who know what they’re selling give better service.

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