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Marketing Your Customer Service

November 9, 2009

One of the best parts of living in a world-class, wine country destination is the wide array of first class restaurants. I headed out with my stepdad late Saturday afternoon for an early dinner. His stipulation was to go someplace he hadn’t been before. And while I tried to take him to a lovely, hilltop restaurant to catch the last of the setting sun, the place turned out to be packed. So we headed back down the hill while I wracked my brain as to where I should try next that wouldn’t also have a huge wait for a table. After all, it was a bit of a spontaneous excursion, a Saturday night, and we had no reservations.

As I sped back south on Silverado Trail I remembered a recent event I’d attended at Brix and decided to give it a try. There was just enough ambient light left for my stepdad to see the building and the gardens behind, and hopefully it was still early enough for us to get a table (or sit at the bar). Indeed, they were able to seat us immediately with a great view in the main dining room directly onto the gardens, which were now almost dark.

Brix is not an inexpensive restaurant in the heart of wine country, and we had not intended to go out for a multi-course meal and eat extravagantly. And though it did take a bit long for our cocktails to arrive, they were absolutely superb.

For the next hour or so we enjoyed our cocktails and superb appetizers and great conversation. Well into our meal, having progressed to a main course and wine, I stopped to comment on the wait service. When we had sat down before 6 p.m. several tables had not yet been filled, but as the evening progressed diners arrived and began their meals. We were on the edge of the dining room and could observe the flow of traffic. I was truly impressed by dance of the waiters. (I saw few waitresses.)

Do you remember the dancing kitchen utensils musical number from Beauty & The Beast? How about the dance of the hot chocolate waiters on the train in Polar Express? All things of beauty – their movement seemed so perfectly choreographed: as one waiter dropped off a plate another picked up something just finished. As a wine glass was emptied, it was whisked away by yet another waiter from another side. They all worked together seamlessly for a perfect presentation of service. They were seemingly bending over backwards to provide perfect service. And I shouldn’t forget to mention that our main waiter went out of his way several times (without being pushy) to make wine suggestions to pair best with our food.

How does all this relate to marketing? Well, the landscape in marketing and running businesses altogether has changed dramatically in the last year. Customer loyalty has been tested and is up for grabs in many businesses as consumers shift their allegiances. Many restaurants have closed for a variety of reasons. But one thing that can make or break a business is superb customer service.

Even though Brix is by no means a nightly or even a weekly destination for me, I am far more willing to revisit it on a more frequent basis because I know the service will be top drawer. Even more key to me is the fact that it wasn’t just one waiter – whom I am unlikely to be served by during the next visit, as I will likely be assigned to a different table – it was the entire wait staff acting together to provide a great dining experience. So I know that next time, with a different waiter, I can expect great service again.

Great customer service is part of great marketing. Can you market your customer service? Absolutely! Promote the hell out of it! Without great customer service, marketing can be wasted dollars. Think what you can do to make your business stand out from the crowd with top-drawer service. How often are you in contact with your customers and asking them what they need?

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