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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Small Businesses Should Keep Niceties, Lose 'No Problem'

“No problem” may become a problem when that’s how your waitstaff responds to customer requests, a new restaurant study shows. Though the study confined its investigation to the food world, the insights it offers about the effects that service niceties have on a business are relevant to any small business that serves the public.

What restaurant consultant Aaron Allen's audit, "80 Most Common Restaurant Mistakes," demonstrated is that the fine points of customer service are relentlessly egalitarian, as important to large operations as they are to small shops. Whether you’re running a mom-and-pop corner bistro pulling in $250,000 a year or a strip-mall chain clothing boutique, the way your staff interacts with your customers can have a big effect on your bottom line.

Excessive familiarity or lack of respect doesn't play well with customers, the audit showed. Using overly friendly names such as "dude," "buddy" and "pal" turn customers off, the study found. So do the overuse of perfumes and colognes, or gossiping or talking about improper subjects within earshot of customers.

Customers like to be treated as individuals, not numbers. The audit said that a proper greeting delivered with warmth by a host creates a much better first impression than an impersonal conversation that centers on "how many?" or "where do you want to sit -- dining room or bar?"  And the above-mentioned "no problem" should never slip through the staff's lips. Allen suggested that a more appropriate response to an order or request is "my pleasure."

Product knowledge is equally as important as courtesy , the audit showed.  Whether serving food or frocks, your staff should know what they're talking about. Failing to recommend a favorite or popular item or being unfamiliar with the cuisine they're serving is not acceptable. Diners don't want to hear a waiter say, "I don't eat seafood."

In all domains, customer-facing staff needs to walk a fine line between hovering and pulling a disappearing act. Like children, they should be seen and not heard (until they're needed, that is). Failing to offer to replenish beverages in a timely fashion -- especially when it is that second $11 glass of wine that a customer would have ordered if it was offered at the right time -- directly affects a company's bottom line.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.