At Nick’s Pizza & Pub restaurant, every month or so, we host a two-day learning session called Nick’s University, where our team members share their customer service experiences with service-driven businesses from all over the country. Enhancing customer service starts with your team, and nurturing better communication and leadership skills is all part of the game. Here are a few things our team has shared about customer service during those sessions.
Track nonverbal cues. When you teach not just job skills, but also communication and life skills, you empower your staff to treat your customers better. This starts with teaching them how to “read between the lines” by tracking body language and tone of voice for clues about a guest’s true experience. If something is wrong, your customers or guests may not say so, but if their smiles have stopped or their voices have changed, that might suggest otherwise. Teaching nonverbal communication skills improves customer service because it opens an opportunity to have more focus on the guest’s needs.
Openly reward positive behavior. People learn from role models. Sure, it’s import to train your team members in traditional ways, but another way the team learns is by watching the behaviors of others. We encourage our managers and team leaders to openly reward and recognize a job well done in front of other team members and during shift meetings. It helps create a healthy sense of competition to perform better and earn the same rewards.
Stay away from drama. When teaching better communication skills, we encourage people to be aware of how we create drama within ourselves and with others. Drama is caused by gossip, anxieties and worrying about the future, the past and things we have no control over. Instead, we encourage our team members to focus on the present. By diminishing the percentage of time our team members are in drama state, they have more time to spend connecting with our guests.
Accept and support new employees. What do you do to help new team members feel welcome? At Nick’s, we introduce new team members during orientation and daily meetings, and have them sign the “purpose wall”—a white wall near our employee break room where new hires sign their names and add a message as soon as they’ve finished their training and are "certified" in their job. We assign the same trainer to work with the new team member for several days, rather than just throwing them into the trenches. Then, at the end of each day we ask the trainer to rate on a scale of 1-5 in various skills to monitor the learning process. Once they earn all 4s, they earn certification.
Coach, don’t tell. Rather than just telling team members to do this or that, we encourage them to think for themselves. Asking our team members about what they are seeing or noticing about the experience of our guests or the volume of business, or asking them if they could have done things differently helps them problem-solve as it relates to our purpose and values. If we fall into the easy habit of just telling team members what to do and what not to do, we create a flock of sheep rather than a group of engaged doers and leaders.
I continue to find that the key to developing a group of excellent customer service representatives starts with the support you give your team members. Encouraging them to think on their own and helping nurture communication skills for work and for life transforms followers into leaders.
Looking for more tips and advice on customer service? Check out these customer service articles.
Nick Sarillo is the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake and Elgin, Ill., and the author of A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business (Portfolio; hardcover). www.nicksarillo.com.