Word Of the Week #38: Reassurance

April 21, 2009 by · Comments Off on Word Of the Week #38: Reassurance 

Reassurance: a positive and earnest confirmation.

Last week’s word was recommendation and do you love it when the person who is helping you validates the choice you’ve made?

When it comes to a food and/or beverage order all you have to say is, “I think you will really love …. It’s one of our most popular items.” Also, it has been proven that servers can influence customers easier with a nod and a smile. A whopping 78.3% of the time customers will go along with the suggestion if they feel a sense of trust!

Back in my waitress days, when I made suggestions that my customers weren’t sure of, I would always say, “If you don’t like it, I’ll buy it.” There’s no better reassurance than that!

Dixie Lea

Dixie Lea

My friend Dixie, just bought a new car. She told the salesman she was looking for last years model. After much conversation he said, “Dixie, I want to tell you after seeing how you are dressed and how nice your current car is, I think you’ll be much happier with this years model. What you have to take into consideration is that last years model has been sitting on the car lot a long time and will have weathered, not to mention possibly having door dings.”

Dixie told me, “He was right. I’m very particular and I will be much happier with a new car that looks new.” That’s a win-win! He sells her what he has in stock and ultimately she is happier because she’s getting exactly what she wanted.

The point is, you can’t sell to everyone the same way. When you ask open-ended questions and listen to what your customers say, you find out what their needs and wants are. This week focus on making recommendations and then following them up with reassurances.

Reader Responses

“Your words are right on again! I laughed when I read your WOW #38. I use the same line; “I will buy your dinner if you don’t like it!” I have never had a member take me up on it, because I know what I am recommending them is awesome! I always make it a point to even go back to the table to check on them personally when I have made this type of recommendation.  Now, understand that I am the GM, not the server. I have 185 employees under me. I have a Clubhouse Manager, a Food and Beverage Manager, a Director of Catering, a Catering Service Manager, a Manager on Duty, Two Dining Room Managers, a Maitre d’ and so forth, just in the front of the house. However, as a part of my MBWA Program (Management By Walking Around)I like to make visits to the dining rooms (we have several of them) and touch every table, if time permits. I do it without being annoying, like some places do. I know how to read the table, then I know to approach them. In some cases, I just give a nod, to let them know I acknowledge them, so I don’t ignore them. However, there are some members and guests that want you to come to say hello to their out of town guests, so I do. I like to build the member up in front of their guests, they love it! I always make sure I know the soup of the day and I always like to know a few Chef Creations, so when I go to the table, I can make a recommendation.  WOW, a recommendation from the GM / COO, that means it has to be great! That is right, it better be great, this is why I always have to taste it to make sure prior to the dinner hour.  I tested a few servers last week with asking them to take the same approach I did and they came back to me and said, WOW it really works. Members like to go with my suggestions. So then it becomes a competition thing. They do it because it works and plus it is like a test to them to see how many members they can make recommendations to that buy what they are selling. Yes, it is amazing the power of the word of suggestion. “Which one of these wonderful desserts will you be having this evening (as you roll the cart up close to the table, displaying the large piece of double fudge chocolate cake and the coconut cream pie and the fresh baked apple cobbler……..?” Do you think I sold any desserts from the cart that night? It helps being a GM who has had waiter, bartender, cook, experience. I actually started out in this business washing dishes.” –Don Vance

“I find that using reassurance with my co-workers seems to make them feel better about themselves and their work. I will get co-workers who come up to me because I will usually lend an ear. In almost every case, people want someone to take a few minutes to simply LISTEN to them whether it is a customer or a co-worker. After I have listened to a co-worker’s woes about her day, I will pass along whatever it is I have learned in my experience. After I have finished, the co-worker at times will still be on the proverbial “pitty pot,” but invariably she will thank me for simply listening.  What I have found with younger workers is that they feel their woes are peculiar to them only, when EVERYONE has gone through the same thing at one point or another. One of the big ones, Susan, is that a co-worker is not getting what she wants from her job or feels that she deserves better. In many instances the co-worker has only been out of college a few years and wants to be on a faster track. What I have learned is that we all have to pay our dues and we really don’t know what the future holds for doors opening or closing. So, I try to counsel patience and that good things will come as long as you do the best job at whatever position one holds. I have learned that people notice what we take for granted. Some dues take longer to pay than others, but with patience, persistence and the reassurance that the best is yet to come, good things will come. Young workers who have only themselves to worry about are like children in a way, because everything revolves around their world which limits perspective in general. If we can reassure those around us that it does get better, maybe they will eventually find what they want. In the meantime, we all need to stop and smell the roses. Thanks for the word.” — Joe Moran

The Art of Helping Your Customers Buy

March 28, 2009 by · Comments Off on The Art of Helping Your Customers Buy 

I don’t believe you should ever use the words “suggestive selling” in your establishment.  In my opinion, it implies a sort of pushiness that most waiters and customers strongly dislike.  Instead, I suggest that you show your restaurant staff how they can “help your customers buy,” so that they enjoy their dining experience to the fullest.

The first thing you need to do is insure that your staff knows that their main responsibility is to make every customer they come in contact with walk out of your establishment feeling really good about spending their money!  When this happens, your guests will want to return and spend more money. In addition, they’ll tell friends about you.  So keep in mind that “helping your customers buy “is not a one time practice—it should be a recurring practice if you want to increase your restaurant’s popularity and success.

Impacting the bottom line

When it comes to increasing sales, you have three options.  1) You can sell more items per table to increase the guest check average, 2) You can institute a frequent diner club and increase the number of visits per customer, or 3) You can hope your customers will increase their party size on their next visit. In this article, I address increasing the guest check average.

To increase the guest check average, keep in mind that what worked in the 1980s and 1990s doesn’t work today. In recent decades, it was okay for waiters to simply read through specials as though they were half-heartedly reciting a script. In order to “help your customers buy,” your staff needs to do better. It would help if they understood my “M versus E Theory” –Motion vs. Emotion. To use this theory, ask, “Are you just going through the motions?” everyday or “Are you creating an emotional connection with each and every guest you come in contact with?”

What is emotional connection?

I believe emotion connection consists of a number of things, beginning with body language. Surprisingly, your body language communicates 55% of your message and is five times more powerful than your verbal message (Source: You Are the Message: Getting What You Want By Being Who You Are, Roger Ailes). Body language includes every part of your communication act that is not the actual spoken or written words used.  This includes your facial expression, eye contact, body movement, gestures and posture. Vocal pitch, tone, volume and intensity make up another 38 percent of your message, which leaves only 7 percent for the words you speak. What you say is only a fraction of what you are communicating. Your guests will always read visual signals over the verbal ones.  In other words, you are the message.

Emotional connection also encompasses building rapport.  When you’re in rapport with others you see things the way they do; you hear things as they sound to others; you’re even sensing and feeling or responding to a situation as others are. In some instances, this is easy, almost automatic. People do business with people that are like them. Your best friends are usually just like you behaviorally. Your favorite customers are usually just like you. So how do you create rapport with someone that is not just like you behaviorally? There are two easy ways to do this. First, determine how fast or slow their rate of speech is? Then, “pace them,” that is, match your pace and rate of speech with theirs, by slowing or accelerating your speech.  Second, observe and see whether they seem introverted (shy and reserved) or extraverted (outgoing). Introverts talk slower, and will appreciate you matching their pace. The opposite is true for extroverts.

How do you create an emotional connection?

A server can start an emotional connection with an initial greeting and then develop and enhance the connection with every contact he or she has with the guest. It encompasses what I call the Three R’s. Recognition, Responsiveness and Reassurance.

Recognition is greeting the guest within twenty seconds of being seated. It includes making eye contact, smiling and repeating a customer’s name at least twice during the meal. Eye contact is essential, since most people have negative or unfavorable impressions of people who have little eye contact. The most common assumption is that lack of eye contact means lack of honesty. On the other hand, good communicators and good listeners develop positive eye contact with other people. They perceive you as an honest, sincere, and confident person. In addition, a smile is a universal message of friendliness.  When you smile, you look and appear more confident and self-assured.  You set the mood and tone of each interaction, which allows your guests to feel more at ease and comfortable.

Responsiveness involves listening; you must listen to your customers to determine how you can “help them buy.” Responsiveness includes exploring and finding out their likes and dislikes and making a recommendation based on the information they have given you. When I go to a restaurant and don’t know what I want to eat, my favorite question I ask the server is, “If you could eat here right now what would you eat?”  A typical response is, “Everything’s really good.”  And my answer to that is, “I can’t eat everything on your menu, so pick something.”  They are clearly not creating an emotional connection! Some questions that great servers have asked me are, “What are you in the mood for?  Something light or more robust?  Do you like spicy food or more on the mild side? What’s the last great meal you had?”  All of these are open-ended questions, which engage the customer to talk.  It is part of the process of creating an emotional connection.

Listening and paying attention are crucial to responsiveness. Most people hear but don’t really listen. To be successful, you need to overcompensate in this area, since most people are inefficient listeners.  Tests by Dr. Lyman Steil indicate that right after listening to a ten-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, comprehended, accurately evaluated, and retained about half of what was said.  Within forty-eight hours, that drops another 50 percent to 25 percent effectiveness.  By the end of a week, that level goes down to about 10 percent or less.  Once you’re asked responsive questions, listen to your customers’ responses to “help them buy.” When you respond, be very specific and offer them two choices.  Two is very key, because you don’t want your guests to be overwhelmed with choices.

And lastly, Reassure your guests that they have made the right decision.  Reassurance validates the guest, and lets them know they’ve chosen the right restaurant as well as the right dish and the right server. Reassuring also involves repeating back the order and validating their selection at the time of the order.  For example, you could say, “You are going to love the special.  Everyone who has ordered it has raved at how good it is.”  Reassuring means always checking back in two minutes of delivering the order and reconfirming their selection.  “How does it taste? Is it cooked to your liking?”  When they respond with a yes, then you provide another reassurance of, “I knew you were going to love it.”

Emotional connection is never pushy, is always helpful and is all about validating your customer throughout the entire meal experience. When you and your staff understand the importance of connecting on an emotional level, you will have guests who feel really good about spending their money, who come back often and tell all of their friends about you!