Being in a frontline service position is not just a Millennial generation thing; it’s a young worker thing. Workers with little experience are disproportionately represented in frontline service roles because these roles are often the lower-tier positions. In fact, most organizations seeking to scale their operations in any significant way tend to put a young (and therefore relatively inexpensive) workforce out front.
The social dynamic that emerges among front-of-house workers in a customer-service environment is called the “cash register culture.” Because they spend so much time together, their relationships with each other become the context of the job.
To turn “cash register” culture into “customer service” culture, restaurant leaders should teach younger employees these six best practices:
1. Make yourself available
Being available doesn’t necessarily require approaching customers, making eye contact, smiling, or extending verbal greetings, although this is the method many organizations favor. Front-of-house workers need to be more visible, unobtrusive, and pay close attention to their tables and guests. Employees should be aware of guests and ready to serve them.
2. Say as little as possible
Front-of-house employees should say as little as possible. This also saves time in any discussion and allows more air space for the customer. Remind young workers that most people prefer to talk rather than to listen.
3. When you do talk, choose your words carefully
When front-of-house employees are conversing with guests, the safest words usually end in a question mark. Once the employee fully understands what the guest is saying, then he or she can ask specific questions to clarify. Sometimes the most important words are the most basic; front-of-house workers should always say “please” and “thank you,” and never “I can’t help you” or “no.”
Managers should provide front-of-house employees with prepared materials and encourage them to learn their lines and rehearse. Prepared materials almost always provide a more thorough, precise, and attractive response than most front-of-house workers would otherwise offer on their own. These prepared materials also function as a training tool because employees usually learn some basic communication tactics that will serve them well anywhere they go.
4. Never wing it
Front-of-house employees shouldn’t guess, hope, or exaggerate when speaking with guests. If the wait time is 10 minutes, employees should say so. They should not say it will only be a “couple of minutes.” Sometimes the best thing to say is, “I don’t know. Let me find out for you.”
5. Request feedback
Managers should teach young workers to ask follow up questions to determine if the guest is happy and satisfied. This can be accomplished by asking, “Is that acceptable?” or “Are you happy with everything?” or “Is there anything else you need?”
6. Problem solve
Once employees identify a problem, they should decide whether or not they have the knowledge, authority, and resources to solve it. If they determine that they cannot solve the problem, they should quickly gather basic information and pass it to the right person.
Customer service is a skill that does not become obsolete. Teach younger Millennials and inexperienced workers that every single customer-service interaction is an opportunity to practice and fine-tune this valuable skill. Every customer is worth impressing. Impressive people are impressed by those who are positive, motivated, polite, focused on the task at hand, and willing to go the extra mile.