Recently I went to lunch at a restaurant owned by a long-time friend. While waiting for my family to arrive, I was standing outside the front door.
Right by the entrance, just steps from where I stood, was a prime parking spot, unoccupied. But it was not empty for long. Very shortly a car driven by a young woman pulled into it.
As she locked the door, I realized that she was wearing a T-shirt that is part of the outfit for servers in the restaurant. I presumed that she must be dashing in to pick up something quickly.
But by the time my family arrived, several minutes later, she had not returned to her car. And when I went into the restaurant, she was busily waiting tables.
In fact, she was our server. And was quite good. But all the while her car was parked in a choice spot that should be reserved only for customers.
Putting Customers First
Toward the end of the meal, the owner came in, spotted us, and dropped by our table to visit. Later, as we were paying our bill, I took him aside privately and mentioned what had happened.
He was taken aback, to say the least. It had never dawned on him that one of his employees would take up such a preferred spot, especially since dozens of parking spaces were open in the heart of the parking lot.
He commented that she was a new employee, but did not offer that as an excuse. Thanking me, he said that he would take the matter up with her at his first opportunity.
As I said, I've known this man and have frequented his business for a long time — almost 30 years, to be exact. He has succeeded over these years because he consistently provides a quality product and friendly, exceptional customer service.
Indeed, customer service is so much second nature to him, that it did not cross his mind, when orienting this new employee, to tell her to park a short walk from the restaurant and leave the nearer spots to the customers.
Spelling Out Customer Service Standards Explicitly
There is thus a moral in this for all of us. Most people who start small businesses know that their livelihood depends on keeping every customer satisfied. For us as small business owners, customer service is almost instinctual.
New employees, however, may not have these same instincts. They may not yet be looking at their role in the business through the customer's eyes.
In our orientation of new employees, therefore, we should never assume that they are customer-minded. We should spell out our customer-service standards and expectations explicitly and in detail.
And then the employee should see us live up to these standards and expectations ourselves, so that their is no question in his or her mind that customer service is our driving concern.