It doesn't matter what kind of business you're in, there are certain basic rules that apply to everyone regarding making a profit and being successful. Actually, the rules are so simple and basic that often businesses fall into the trap of not paying attention to the small but powerful tools that make any enterprise run smoothly and productively.
I know we live in a new age and that things aren't anywhere near what they used to be, but there are still ways to ensure your business stays in business, and those principles should always be at the top of your mind.
This all came to mind after I read an interview in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago with successful New York restaurateur Danny Meyer. According to the article, Meyer runs 11 Manhattan establishments with 1,418 employees that generate $50 million per year for his Union Square Hospitality Group. The strategies he employs in his restaurants could apply to just about any business because so much of what he believes in has a lot to do with customer service and a dedication to excellence.
For instance, on Meyer's "Five tips for keeping diners happy," he starts with "Never assume: Don't automatically send champagne for anniversaries. Find out what customers really want."
But you could make that admonition to anyone in the service business. When a company or its people become complacent, failure and loss of market share are just around the corner. Complacency can be seductive because it happens so gradually, but it is just as lethal as other forms of failure. In other words, it's another way of saying never assume -- never forget the business you're in and why you're in it.
Next, according to Meyer, is "Turn mistakes into an advantage: Go the extra mile to fix something, whether it's your fault or not. Be generous."
It doesn't matter whose fault something is -- and here's a great story about customer service from Meyer that illustrates his point. He tells of a woman who comes into one of his restaurants "completely bent out of shape." She had left her cell phone and her wallet in a taxi and was late for her luncheon date. So the first thing Meyer did was to let her know she didn't have to worry about paying her bill, and he explains it this way: "I mean what's the worst that could happen? She is going to do us out of a $100 lunch for two. Big deal. So we then asked for her number, and we had a manager in the middle of a busy lunch calling. After about a half hour or so, a taxi driver picks up."
The manager then went and retrieved both the wallet and the cell phone, and when the guest left the restaurant, she was presented with both.
Think of the PR and goodwill that incident must have created for the restaurant. I once told a group of physicians that when patients are kept waiting for a long period of time in their waiting rooms, it would be nice if someone from their staff would offer the waiting patients some refreshment or even a kind word of encouragement like, "I am so sorry the doctor is detained." These are simple words and actions, and they are a wonderful way to make people feel treasured.
Meyer also suggests that it makes sense to "Ask guests questions: People will take as much interest in your business as they believe you are taking in theirs." A few years ago, I taught one of my salespeople to always ask prospects or customers about their business. So instead of starting off with a sales pitch, ask the person you are calling on how their business is doing and also in some cases what products they make.
In this case the saleswoman told me the person she was going to see told her he only had about 10 minutes to visit with her because he had other appointments. Her approach was simple. She told the client she didn't know a great deal about his company and would he mind taking the time to tell her about his success so she could do a better job of selling the merits of Modern Healthcare to him. The call lasted for a good two hours, and that night she was invited to dinner with the owner of the company and his wife.
Then Meyer cautions: "Don't play favorites." In short, treat all your customers well and be consistent. Sometimes we all are tempted to treat one customer better than another. But it doesn't take long before the word gets around that you are giving one customer a better price than you quoted another.
Finally, Meyer suggests: "Put staff first: The customer isn't always right. You can only earn repeat business if employees feel jazzed about coming to work." Meyer feels that there are unreasonable customers who relish causing problems with staff, but then, he believes, it is the manager's responsibility to step into a tight situation and take the side of the waiter or chef if the customer is being unreasonable.
We all know it happens. Some people are unreasonable no matter what the circumstances, but this is where a good leader will step in and back the employee. That makes staff members feel like management will support them and that the organization truly cares about their welfare. It builds morale and a team spirit among the whole staff. No matter whether in the restaurant business or any business, the five tips Meyers offers should be the things that we all should recognize as the basic ingredients of success.
Simple and basic stuff.