Monday, April 16, 2007

The good of customer service

After all my talk about Delta's horrific customer "service," it's worth noting that great service is not dead. One of the best service encounters I've had recently took place at a Famous Dave's restaurant. Our initial interactions with the staff began well. They greeted us pleasantly and promptly and seated us right away. While the service to this point was good, it was not exceptional. What made it so was our waiter and the extra attention the restaurant gives first-time customers.

It was a slow time of day for the restaurant, but rather than be discouraged by the lack of tips, our waiter used the opportunity to talk in-depth about the menu. This was my first visit to Famous Dave's, and I was unfamiliar with the food. Knowing this, our waiter sat down next to us and discussed his personal favorite items and got to know my tastes and preferences so that he could make a recommendation. I asked him all kinds of questions about the meats and BBQ sauces, and he was able to confidently answer each of them. He really seemed to be passionate about his love of the food served there, which in turn made me more enthusiastic about the place as well. In fact, he was so knowledgeable and attentive that I made it a point to tell the manager about what exceptional service we received.

To top off a great meal, Famous Dave's does something that I thought was remarkable. They give each "first-timer" a free bottle of their best BBQ sauce (it's not sample-size either!) as well as a packet full of information about the company's history, it's catering service, and menu. The envelope that contains the information reads as follows:

"Dear First-timer,

Was it as good for you as it was for us? We hope so. Because as far as we're concerned, this is just the beginning of a long and happy relationship.

We want to see your smiling face at our door for many years to come. So, be sure to tell us if there's anything we can do better to keep you coming back.

In the meantime, check out the information in this envelope. We'll be waiting for your next visit with open arms and mouth-watering 'que."

Those few short paragraphs speak volumes about the company's brand and personality. This personality even carried over to the phone survey I was prompted to call on my receipt. The recording reflected this casual, conversational tone and whimsical attitude that now defines Famous Dave's for me. Notice too that the letter solicits feedback and emphasizes the notion that dining is more than transactional, it's a relationship.

To keep the relationship-building momentum going, the restaurant has a P.I.G. Club (Pretty Important Guest). By signing up, members get e-mails with important news, free gifts, and a birthday message (kids get their own birthday gifts).

I may be a pushover, but I was blown away by the entire experience. They nailed every aspect of service quality including Responsiveness, Assurance, Tangibles (the d├ęcor was very fun!), Empathy, and, well, I'll evaluate Reliability on my next visit. Furthermore, the little extras for first-timers are the definition of word-of-mouth moments (I'm telling you all about it after all!). They truly made me feel appreciated as a customer. It make me think about what we do and don't do for first-timers in our libraries. What can we do to communicate to patrons that we want a relationship with them? What kind of a welcome can we and should we give these patrons that will make them want to come back again? At my school, I'm involved with freshman orientation, but what about those who wander in for the first time? On numerous occasions, patrons say to me, "This is my first time in here..." I usually say "Welcome" and give them a map of the building, but perhaps we could have prepared materials that include vital library information and contact information so that they are encouraged to reach out to us with future questions. When someone identifies themselves as new to the library, we should recognize what a great opportunity we have to make a good impression that could last a lifetime. A light bulb should turn on reminding us that we need to make a special effort to make our fist-timers feel important. Thanks for the lesson, Famous Dave's!


Dave Sovde said...

What an incredible restaurant!

My business is building frontline teams and experiences that inspire customers to rememeber,return,and recommend.

Reading about Dave's was a refreshing leap from the ordinary to the truly extraordinary. Excellent post. Thank you.

Sybil Stershic said...

Jill, how refreshing to hear about a positive experience. Thanks for sharing a great example of how to make a good first impression! And I love Dave's comment about inspiring customers to "remember, return, and recommend."

Jill said...

Thanks, Sybil and Dave too! There is still a lot of good service out there and I think it's important to think about where service goes wrong as well as where it goes right since we can learn from both. I guess it's karma that this restaurant experience balanced out the whole Delta debacle. :-)