Anyone Can Take an Order

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Here is a fairly simple question: Would you hire a person with poor communication skills, who flies off the handle when under pressure, and who is unaware of how his or her attitude affects others? Of course not! However, these people litter workplaces across America, including restaurants. While they may be good at “taking the customer’s order,” some servers may lack the skills required to truly connect with the customers. Unfortunately, this disconnected attitude leads to poor customer and employee satisfaction and ultimately affects the restaurant’s bottom line — negatively.

If you are truly trying to separate yourself from the pack, you have to commit to training your entire staff. You educate them on the menu and other food specialties unique to your restaurant. Are they trained, however, in the interpersonal skills required to exceed your customers’ expectations? Your hosts/hostesses, servers and other employees are the ones with whom your customers will engage and interact. These front-line employees (and managers) are critically important to the overall success of your business.

It is the ability to anticipate customers’ needs, be aware of their emotional state, demonstrate empathy and truly connect with their overall dining experience that affects the success of a business. Additionally, the importance of the server’s awareness of his or her own emotional state cannot be overestimated. How can a server manage a disgruntled customer when he or she is unable to deal with his or her own negative attitude? Feelings are contagious; but if one is emotionally tone deaf, the consequences could be widespread throughout the restaurant.

The most effective employees (leaders are also considered employees) are ones who possess both traditional intelligence (IQ) and “people skills” — emotional intelligence (EI). EI is the hard science of people skills built on the split brain theory and neuroscience. Conceptually, EI is a broad term that focuses on one’s interpersonal competence and skills that fall outside the traditional areas of a person’s IQ and technical or business skills. A working definition of EI is the ability to build and maintain positive relationships via managing emotions, trusting “gut” feelings, being aware of and attending to nonverbal communication, and by empathetically connecting with people.

Clearly, a server’s traditional intelligence is able to provide him or her with an accurate answer if the food is not prepared properly. A person’s IQ, however, often fails to provide the correct response when an angry customer is casting aspersions or a co-worker accuses another of stealing his or her tips. Research suggests that a person’s EI can explain a variance in job performance, all else being equal to another person.

Research shows:

  • There is a strong correlation between employees’ satisfaction and customers’ satisfaction
  • The hosts/hostesses and servers are the first and primary contact points for the customer
  • The hosts/hostesses, servers and buss-people’s observable behavior drives the customers’ perceptions of the service quality of the restaurant

Although the above bullet points are relevant to a restaurant’s profit, the last bullet point is extremely significant. Here is why:

  • One hundred satisfied customers generate 25 new customers
  • A five percent increase in overall customer retention equates to a 25 to 55 percent increase in profitability
  • Negative word-of-mouth results in an 8.5 percent decrease in revenues
  • When a customer is dissatisfied:
    • Four percent tell management
    • Ninety-six percent go away
    • Ninety-one percent never return

When employees in the restaurant industry demonstrate a lack of EI, it reduces customer and employee satisfaction, and directly affects the restaurant’s bottom line. Building and maintaining positive relationships with customers and other employees is a critical aspect of all job positions in a restaurant. Developing emotional intelligence, therefore, can be both financially and professionally beneficial to restaurant employees.

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