SMILE: Don't hire an applicant who doesn't smile during an interview.
The British comedy "Fawlty Towers" was a TV show that revolved around a hotel and restaurant with numerous customer service blunders that led to hilarious situations. In the real world, customer service problems are rarely even mildly amusing, let alone hilarious. Since the quality of customer service determines customer loyalty—and your most loyal customers bring in the most revenue—it's imperative that restaurants hire only those applicants with a strong, positive customer service attitude and the ability to learn.
Don't worry about skills, which can always be learned. A new waiter with a positive attitude will easily learn the correct way to open a bottle of wine and how to balance multiple trays. A server who doesn't like people can have every serving skill in the world and leave your customers and other employees feeling devalued.
Good customer service supplies customers' spoken needs. Great customer service supplies customers' unspoken needs, too. Here are four tips to hire the best servers.
Keep your eyes peeled. Be aware of customer service everywhere you go. When you receive great service, say to the people who gave it to you, "I know you're probably not looking for a job, but could you refer me to someone like you who would be interested in coming to work for me?" You'd be surprised how often this technique works—and these people have already demonstrated they deliver the quality service you want.
Hire smiling faces. The behavior you see in an interview is usually better than what you will ever see again. Applicants who don't smile in an interview are unlikely to smile at your customers. You can't teach smiling. People either want to do it or don't.
Ask the right questions. To hire people who will provide good customer service, ask about their experiences as customers. Ask questions such as, "Have you ever received bad service at a restaurant?" "What happened?" "What did you do about it?" "What kind of service do you expect to receive at a fast food restaurant?" "What kind of service do you expect to receive at a restaurant like ours?"
Questions like these reveal candidates' customer service awareness and expectations. People who expect good service provide great service when they learn how.
A "real world" test. Give each applicant who makes the semifinals $10 and tell them to spend it in your restaurant. Some applicants won't come back. Some will return and give you a full report on how well your staff treated them. Some will give you a full report and change from the $10. Hire these people first.
Once you've found and hired people with the right attitude, support them in keeping it. Don't set rules employees will have to break in order to solve a customer's problem.
Empower your people to do what needs to be done to resolve customer service difficulties. If, as a manager, you would offer to resolve a problem by giving a free dessert to a customer, allow your waitstaff the same leeway. After all, we're talking about a $4-$5 dessert, not a free dinner for a party of 10.
Finally, train your new hires to handle problems before they escalate by using the three Fs— feel, felt and found. This is a great training idea because it keeps servers focused on finding a solution rather than complaining about a problem. Here's how it work: When a customer has a problem, begin addressing it by saying:
"I understand why you feel that way."
"I felt exactly the same way when that happened to me."
"This is what I've found is the best way to handle it"
Customer service is about managing the experiences customers have while in your restaurant. Make sure those experiences are good ones by hiring the right people.