• Abby Myette

(originally published for the Business Owner Tide Chart newsletter - March 2020)

There was one word that kept coming up as Shanna and Aaron talked about their approach to customer service; family.  At Salem’s newest restaurant, Settler, you really do feel like family.  From the moment you walk in and Shanna’s warm welcome greets you at the door to the smiles and team approach from the staff, you feel right at home.  Every business needs a philosophy and approach to customer service.  That philosophy should answer how you want your customers to feel.  Or, as Aaron and Shanna referred to them, how you want your guests to feel.  They made a really great distinction that grounds their customer service approach.  Shanna explained that for her a guest is someone who is joining you for a period of time whereas a customer is just a transaction. 

Starting with the language they use, Settler is creating a philosophy around their experience.

The next important step is to ensure your staff feel the same way.  At Settler “we want the staff to feel like an extension of our family, but to put their own stamp on it” was how Aaron explained it.  And there are two key steps Aaron and Shanna have taken to ensure their staff feel comfortable and confident in the roles they play to offer an exceptional guest experience. Prior to opening, the staff all received a modified version of the business plan.  It gave them insight into Shanna and Aaron’s story from Washington, DC to New York City and the eventual return home to the North Shore.  It shared their vision for Settler. Having this information gives the staff an insight into the Why behind the restaurant.  Knowing the Why enables them to bring their own flavor to the guest experience while staying true to the vision Aaron and Shanna worked so hard to create.

The second key step in creating a family experience for guests is to host a family meal for the staff every day.  Settler has an intimate menu full of local ingredients and seasonal dishes.  To authentically service these dishes and answer questions from guests, the staff need to taste and experience it themselves.  Sometimes this means Aaron is making accommodations to meet the dietary restrictions of his staff. 

The effort and care he puts in for them is a window into the effort and care he will offer any guest who needs an adjustment to their order.  The staff know this and can readily answer questions guests may have about adjustments to the menu. As I left my time with Aaron and Shanna I felt like I was leaving friends.  They have truly made their space at Settler feel like home.  And the overall lesson was clear, the way you treat your staff is the way your guests will be treated.  “Happy people equals happy guests” was the sentiment shared by Shanna and Aaron.

(originally published for the Business Owner Tide Chart newsletter - March 2020)

Exceptional customer service is actually really easy.  Yes, easy.  I say this over and over again.  It’s easy to be kind.  It’s easy to offer a smile and a hello. 

Customer service is easy.

If you find yourself struggling to deliver that great experience I encourage you to look at your systems.  Every business has systems in place.  It could be your inquiry form or the way you collect orders.  It could be how you display your products or your return policy.  Think about the instances when it was hard to deliver great customer experiences, which system or process was your customer engaging in at that time?  There is a pretty good chance the challenging interaction all started with that system.  

Let’s take the return or refund policy as an example.  How a customer can return a product or refund their ticket should be simple and straight forward.  The policy should be short and specific.  And it should just be one policy.  There shouldn’t be different rules for different products.  When things get complicated and you start including policies that sound like “if they bought item A, the return policy is this but if they bought item B, something else happens…” you are going to frustrate your customers.  Frustrated customers lead to you being frustrated which, you got it, leads to difficult situations and customer service that isn’t easy. So, keep your policies and procedures simple

Share them in an obvious location on your website or in your store.  Remind your customers when they check out.  And include it again on their receipt or in a follow up e-mail.  The more often you tell them, the more likely they are to actually hear it or read it.  I bought a shirt from a large women’s clothing chain and it was a red ticketed item.  I had a vague memory of that meaning something different from previous shopping.  But there were no signs and when I checked out, no one said anything.  So when I ended up returning the item a week later I was surprised to be told I wasn’t allowed to return it.  No one had told me the red ticket meant final sale.  My receipt didn’t say anything either.  Fortunately the employee understood my concerns when I told her no one said anything.  She was kind enough to still let me return the item.

This brings me to the other key step that will make exceptional customer service easy; make decisions quickly and in the best interest of your customer.  As a small business owner you have the power to make exceptions.  So even if it goes against your policy, do what is best. When the store let me return my item despite it being final sale, I left feeling like a valued customer.  And it positively influenced my decision to return a few weeks later. 

If you have systems in place that are easy to understand, simple to follow, and speak to the best interest of your customer, it will be easy to deliver an exceptional experience every time.  What other ways can you ensure you’re delivering exceptional customer service? Join me for this month’s Facebook Live session on Monday, March 16 at 7pm where I will share some of my favorite lessons from business experts on delivering exceptional customer service.  For a sneak peek, download this month’s freebie of inspiring quotes.

  • Abby Myette

(originally published for the Business Owner Tide Chart newsletter - February 2020)

Another great way to engage your customers is to host giveaways, contests, or competitions.  In the fitness arena, challenges are a popular option.  At Reck Fitness in Beverly, MA this month over 80 people are participating in their fitness challenge.  I sat down with one of the owners and coaches, Katie Partyka, and we chatted about the program and the many things it accomplishes. 

Joining the challenge is open to both members and non-members.  For the non-members it is a great way for them to experience the gym without making a long term commitment.  In the end, about half of the non-members end up returning to the gym on a regular basis.  Katie and the Reck Crew recognize that everyone comes to the gym for different reasons and with different goals in mind.  The four mini-challenges throughout the month each focus on something different.  So, people can contribute in whatever way works best for them.  The first week, you earned points for every class you attended and the person attending the most classes received bonus points. For some people, doing two classes in a row or one in the morning and one at night was possible.  For others, just getting to three classes a week was an accomplishment.  But the challenge in the second week, a game of BINGO with numerous different opportunities to cross off boxes, caters to a wide audience.  I might not be able to do 100 burpees, but I can take a selfie at the gym and tag Reck in my post. For the Reck Crew the challenge is a great way to engage their members with one another. Everyone is placed on a team and the coach will host team workouts.  There is a team Facebook group where participants leave encouraging messages, share healthy meal recipes, and plan meet ups at class. The challenge builds community.  It encourages people to achieve new goals in their physical fitness and healthy living.  The challenge makes Reck more than a gym. The goals for your own challenge or contest may be different.  But in the end the focus should be on the customer, how they interact with your brand, and do they feel better after that interaction.  Does the experience grow loyal fans?  A challenge doesn’t have to last a whole month either.  Maybe it centers around a community event or a holiday.  Check out this month’s freebie download for a calendar of holidays and celebrations to inspire your next contest or challenge.

Looking for inspiration for reasons to connect with your customers? Plan something around a holiday! Here is a 2020 Calendar of fun and unique holidays that you can celebrate along with your customers or clients!

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