As a proud member of the Hospitality Service Industry (yes, bartending is a Real job, especially in a tourist-rich area such as the Niagara Region), I try to network with as many other service professionals as I can, either through personal interaction, or by way of social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
Today, Liquor.com asked the following question via Twitter:
BARTENDERS’ SOAPBOX: “How important is making eye contact with each and every patron?”
Immediately, this came across as a very odd question, because to me, the answer was beyond obvious: “VERY!”
With that being said however, I do realize that not everyone in the Service Industry understands (or even cares) about the importance of this issue. From my own personal experiences, I can tell you with great certainty that there are a lot of service workers out there, who fail miserably when it comes to acknowledging their customers, and here’s why:
PRIORITY SERVICE: They fear that by making eye contact, the customer will automatically assume (and expect) that they will be the next ones to be served.
SELF-IMPORTANCE: They think to themselves, “Obviously they can see that I’m busy, so why should I have to acknowledge them?”
POOR ATTITUDE: They really don’t like people, but oh well…the money’s good.
INTIMIDATION: They lack confidence and are intimidated by certain customers based on how they look.
For me personally, there’s nothing that I hate more from a customer service standpoint than when I walk into a place of business and the staff members completely ignore me. It’s a terrible first impression and just makes me wonder if I have invisible super-powers, which in turn, just makes me want to start making my own drinks—or better yet, start taking money out of the cash register. Heck, if I’m so damn invisible, then I might as well start using my powers for evil, right?
The result of being ignored (even if only for a minute) is that I’m left feeling completely unimportant, and no customer on Earth ever enjoys feeling that way. People work hard for their money, and if they choose to spend it at your place of business (when they could just as easily spend it down the road), then at the very least, you should try to demonstrate a little appreciation. Plus, no one enjoys having their time wasted.
But don’t worry, the solutions are simple (assuming of course that you care enough about your customers to fix the problem—if you don’t, then that’s obviously a much bigger problem that starts with your entire attitude towards service in general):
Acknowledge people immediately, even if you can’t serve them right away. If a server is quick to acknowledge me, then I don’t mind waiting for an extended period, because at least I know that they then know that I exist, and I feel confident that they will get to me as soon as they can. Yes, I can see that they are very busy, therefore I don’t mind waiting. Ignoring me on the other hand, just feeds my impatience, anxiety, and feelings of unimportance, which never translates well into the first impression, future referral business—or better yet, the gratuity.
And once you do finally serve the customer, please remember that if they are with their spouse or hanging out with a few of their friends, do not focus solely on one single member of their group. If a bunch of people walk in at the exact same time, make sure that you greet them with a simple “hello” and systematically make eye contact (and greeting) with each and every single one of them. I know you’re busy, but the extra 2 seconds “wasted” will be worth it in the end.
And please make sure that you smile, especially if you’re under a bit of stress. Otherwise, the look on your face will say it all: “Go Away!”
Something else to consider is that if you can’t get to the customers at that very moment, tell them that you will be with them in a minute or two, depending on how busy you are.
And lastly, if you’re getting so backed up with your duties that the customers are starting to wait a bit too long—stop talking and get moving! Customers won’t mind waiting as much if they feel that the server is actually doing their best by working their hardest. But if they’re moving at a snail’s pace with no regard for the fact that people are waiting, I can promise you that they will not be a happy customer.
The single most important thing that any person can do when they are in customer service is to acknowledge the customers with something as simple as eye contact, and try to do it within the first 3 seconds of their arrival.
Don’t be scared, homies! The customers are your friends. Just remember to treat them as such.