BARE Shares – In Customer Service, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

May 19, 2017

BARE International shares an article by Micah Solomon for Forbes – In Customer Service, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.

‘What’s true in the musical “Annie” is true in every real-life customer service position as well: You’re never fully dressed without a smile.

You can deliver great customer service with your shoes untied, your name badge askew, your blazer threadbare and shiny in patches, and your hair molded into a gravity-defying sculpture that speaks of last night’s amorous activities. But when a customer makes visual contact with you, you’ve failed as a customer service professional if you don’t respond with an open, welcoming message that conveys your willingness to serve.

A smile, in other words.

Why is a smile so important?  Because a customer service scenario is one where the two of you don’t know much about each other, at least initially. You don’t share a bond of family, or of co-working or neighborhood, and in the absence of this type of shared background and mutually-known backstory, a customer service professional needs to find a way to telegraph availability and willingness to help, and to do this, at the onset, entirely without the use of words. 

Hotelier and restaurateur Patrick O’Connell, whose Inn at Little Washington is one of the world’s only Double-Five Star (Forbes Travel Guide) and Double Five Diamond (AAA) properties, has shared with me previously that his first employee selection interview “question” is actually an observation:

Does the applicant smile easily?” Because if they don’t, they’re “unlikely to instinctively know how to put others at ease which is an invaluable trait in service,” a failing that is hard to compensate for no matter how much training is piled on in an attempt.

When Chef O’Connell first shared this with me, I thought, “Heavy!” but I also thought, “Really?,” because it struck me as a tad far-fetched. O’Connell’s Inn at Little Washington is a complex, tightly-choreographed operation, a venue that compels kings and presidents and titans of industry to drive to the middle of nowhere (and then another half hour) for the meal of the year–or, in the case of more hard-up foodies who’ve saved for years in order to eat there, the meal of a lifetime. So, would O’Connell’s hotel and restaurant really base hiring decisions less on where an applicant trained and what previous experience they had under their belt, and more on the ease with which they smile?

Chef Patrick O’Connell of The Inn at Little Washington at the launch of the Michelin Red Guide for Washington DC. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s what I’ve come to think subsequently. Customer service and hospitality masters like Patrick O’Connell, who is also President of Relais & Chateaux North America, a consortium of independent inns and restaurants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico [disclosure: I was the keynote speaker for a Relais & Chateaux summit this autumn], give weight to an applicant’s smile only partly for the value of the smile itself, and partly because the smile is a proxy for the applicant’s ability to assume a range of customer-pleasing behaviors, either immediately upon hiring or upon appropriate training to bring those behaviors out. Without the smile, odds are good no amount of training is every going to be able to compensate.’

Do you strive for operational excellence? Maintaining high quality standards can make all the difference in the success of your business.  Unaddressed concerns can not only affect your customer base, but can also drive quality employees away and keep top-of-the-line, new staff from joining your organization.

With proven success within all industry categories and infrastructure across the globe serving 4,500 clients, BARE is uniquely qualified to design, implement, and analyze customer behavior research. Why not contact a BARE International representative today for a complimentary evaluation of your business? We look forward to hearing from you.

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