How to Make Your Employees Customer Service Leaders

A look at how one business empowers its employees with clear ways to show customer-service leadership.
Nicks Pizza and Pub
October 05, 2012

Marketing. Social media. Advertising. The traditional methods of brand building work just fine, but how do you take your efforts to the next level? How do you build your brand from the inside out so that your business “culture” enhances the culture of your community? 

We give team members Moments of Magic cards to hand out in the community when they see positive, altruistic behavior reflective of our mission: to provide our community with an unforgettable place where they can connect with family and friends, to have fun and to feel at home. The handouts are essentially Nick’s business cards with our mission printed on the front. On the back of the card is a coupon for a free appetizer. There is also a blank line for our team members to write in the name of the person receiving the card and the date, along with a line where they can sign their own names.

Although our Moments of Magic cards offer a great opportunity to empower our team members to build sales, more importantly, they help us demonstrate to our community that good behavior is important to us—both at our restaurants and elsewhere in town. In return, the community has shown their appreciation for these simple acts of kindness by becoming loyal guests.

Inside our restaurants, we use a straightforward, five-step method for creating Moments of Magic, which we break down into “art” and “science.” Take a look:

1. Greet every guest within five steps of you. In training we demonstrate how close five steps can be by putting two people back to back and asking them to each take two and a half steps away from each other.  While we may have boiled this down to a science, we still allow for some “artfulness" on the part of our staff by encouraging them to say use any verbal acknowledgement of their choosing. If their hands are full, a simple smile and a nod works, too.

2. Greet all guests coming into and out of the restaurants. This can be applied to any business. Acknowledging someone’s presence and thanking them for their business is a simple best practice.

3. Answer phones within three rings. Our team members answer the phone in three rings, even if it means diving across the room to get it. Regardless if you are the company receptionist, answering the phone urgently is a simple extension of our value to greet guests as soon as they enter our doors.

4. Teamwork. Our team members think beyond their own stations and help each other during busy moments. Maintaining full hands into the kitchen and full hands out is an easy, natural way to help others. 

5. The Grandma test. This is as simple as saying if your Grandma wouldn’t eat what you’re serving, then don’t serve it to the guests. If your Grandma wouldn’t say it, then maybe you shouldn’t either. Everyone has veto power, too; if a team member sees a dish going out to the guests that doesn’t look right, they have the right to call it back for a fix. This helps our team members feel like they have ownership over their actions and performance.

Tracking and celebrating good behavior forms the very basis of all our training and “coaching” techniques. Instead of simply doling out bonuses or other external motivators we encourage regular, daily feedback to reward good behavior in the restaurants.  Culture is the result of how people feel and behave at work; when our people feel happy, they do their best work.

Read more advice on providing great customer service. 

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).