They say you don’t notice good service until you don’t have it. That’s true.
However, sometimes service exceeds your expectations and you really notice it.
I recently spent the weekend at a conference in Banff, listening to a variety of great speakers and panel discussions. While the conference was one of the best I have to been to, it was an experience at a local restaurant that stuck with me the most.
We had the opportunity to eat at Eden, a restaurant at the Rim Rock Hotel in Banff. The staff there taught me a few new lessons in providing customer service and value. I think they are relevant no matter which business you are in.
1. Know Your Customer (and don’t be afraid to ask when you don’t)
Our friend Kelly made the reservation, however, upon our arrival the hostess wasn’t afraid to ask the names of every one in our group. She also confirmed any food allergies (we did have one) and asked if we would be needing a taxi when the meal was done (which we did).
She then used this info to be spectacular. She knew how the bill would likely be split up, which of us had the nut allergy and she had a car waiting for us at the end of the night. Best of all, when one of us showed up a little later than the rest, she called him by name. He was surprised, especially since he didn’t make the reservation.
Get to know your customers. When it’s the first time you meet, you have the perfect excuse to ask as many questions as you like. It gives you the tools to be spectacular.
2. You Can’t Fake Passion
Our table came with a guy named Rob, who was apparently our wine guy (or Sommolier if you prefer). Rob clearly loved wine and had a great story for each wine that he chose to pair with the various courses our meal. You could tell it was coming from the heart. The wine he served us wasn’t their sale rep’s special of the week, but Rob’s personal favourites. He told entertaining and humourous stories of traveling in France and California and knew a lot about the history of each winery.
Also, we would occasionally get a visit from the restaurant’s manager. He was quick witted and funny, poking Saskatchewan jokes about Pilsner and comparing the mountains to flat prairie land. He made the experience entertaining, even to the point of welcoming a good night hug offered by one of our friends. (We have one of those friends who is hugger when he drinks)
You just can’t fake passion and when you love what you do, it’s spreads easily.
3. Choreograph the Remarkable
Set standards for customer service. Find something unexpected and remarkable and do it well. The staff at Eden clearly has set goals to make the experience great for all people at the table. They suggested meals that would allow the whole table to be served at the same time (so no one was sitting waiting while others ate their various courses). Also, when each course was delivered to the table, all staff were on hand to present the plates in front of each guest at the same time. You could tell it was important to them and they showed pride in their work.
But best of all, something unexpected. If you left the table to go to the washroom, the staff would quietly swing past the table and replace your napkin with a new, folded napkin. It wasn’t necessary, but it was a little extra service that stood out. We even turned it into a game at the table. We all tried to make it back from the bathroom before the staff had the chance to replace the napkin. I won.
As a team, we are now planning how we can choreograph the unexpected. With each client, our goal now is to do something unexpected at least once. It’s amazing how much a surprise, no matter how simple, stands out.
4. Mistakes Happen Despite their best efforts, our friend’s dessert came to the table with one small walnut on top. Quickly realizing the mistake, the server returned the plate to the kitchen, made it right with a new dish and even took the cost of the dish off the bill at the end of the night (which was more than they needed to).
Mistakes happen. Often they are even out of our control. However, they give us a chance to shine and be exceptional. What do you do when a seller leaves a mess at the home on possession day and your clients are getting ready to move in?
5. One Last Thing
When the dessert plates were all cleared and the wine glasses empty, we thought the evening was almost over. However, out came another round of light desserts, including Saskatoon berry donuts and more. The cognac cart made a special appearance as well.
However, when we finally got up to leave the restaurant, our servers were waiting for us at the front door with parting gifts. In each bag, a chocolate dipped banana bread loaf to take home. This little extra wasn’t just another surprise, but a way of extending and/or sharing the experience. This gave us something to share with those we may have left at home or at the very least, one more thing to Instagram in the next morning.
Is there a way to extend your client’s experience beyond the time they spend with you? (without giving a set of steak knives with your name engraved on them)
This was best meal experience I have ever had. While the food and wine were amazing, those details will fade from my memory over time. It’s the experience that will stick with me.
Congrats to Eden who gives their staff free reign to incorporate their personalities and passions into their work. Kudos to Rob and the rest of the staff as well.
And by the way, it was likely the most expensive meal I had ever had…but when you compete on value and service, the price becomes less of a factor.