customer service

Nice Guy

Eat. Drink.

Catering sales consultants should always be nice. Customers mostly buy from people that are pleasant. Sales consultants should also be just as nice and considerate to the backbone of the catering business; the warehouse, operations and culinary department team members at their own company. This “back of house” core team is the reason we are in business. Spend time getting to know these important and talented people that make what you sell so wonderful. Stop being so “front of house”. Show them a lot of appreciation for their hard work and thank them.

Recognize the value of relationships with each department member and what you can learn from them. Have you ever thought that your food delivery drivers have the most frequent interaction with your actual customers? Ask them how your customers respond and react to your products. Consider the reality that off-site venue representatives probably have better relationships with your service captains than you. Why? Because they spend long event hours together and develop that special bond.  

Get out of your comfort zone and ask for feedback from department leaders on what you can do to make your production paperwork better for them. Learn from them and ask for advice. If you are nice to them, they will be honest and give you what you need. If they do not consider you as an ally, they will just think it’s a waste of their time.

We all have closed dates. What about your competition? You never know how and when you will need them. Be nice to them too! I have referred business in the past to my competitors and have received business in return. I truly would not be in business today if I had not been nice to my competition.  The support they have provided me in my first two years of business consulting has been immense. I am grateful to all of them. Remember, what goes around comes around. It pays to be nice.

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Inspire.

Every Monday at 11:00 am my Dad stands outside his garage door waiting to hear the sound of the engine revving from a big truck turning the corner. Then he sees the big green box coming toward him honking furiously and sees two arms waving out the window. The garbage men have arrived for the weekly pickup. The garbage men are my Dad’s new friends.

I love their relationship. It started a year ago when my parents moved into their new home. They moved because the new place has an attached garage that their previous place did not. My Dad is a master of several crafts, with woodworking being his most adept. He spends 8 hours a day working in that garage, designing bookshelves, building rocking horses, creating chicken coop egg-separators; you name it, he will figure out how to make it for you. He is very passionate about this hobby. If you are lucky to receive one of his creations, you can see the love he puts into each piece.

One hot Monday, Dad was working in the garage when the garbage truck arrived for pickup. Dad offered each garbage man a cold bottle of flavored water. The guys were so pleasantly surprised and grateful for this simple gesture. They said, “Nobody is ever this nice. Thank you”. After they thanked Dad, they said they would see him next week. They also rolled his regular trash and recyclable bins to his garage door. The rest of the neighbors bins were tossed at the end of their driveways without a thought to which way they landed. The garbage men honked that day as they drove away. 

Since that day, Dad gives them different flavored waters to try each Monday. They love it. They are now pals. They talk about what’s new. The guys ask what new project Dad is working on. They get out of their truck to admire his woodworking projects. At Christmas, Dad gave each of them a bottle of wine and homemade pizzelles (thin Italian cookies). They still always honk as they drive away.

On Mondays when Dad and Mom are not home, they leave the bins at the end of the driveway. Dad doesn’t get to see his friends and give them cold drinks. It doesn’t matter. The guys are still always gentle with Dad’s bins. When they get home from their errands or activities, the bins are placed at the top of their driveway, lined up near the garage door. For just a little act of kindness, Dad now has the best garbage service in the neighborhood.

No Hay Problema

Eat. Drink.

In my 25 years of selling, I always had to be creative with client proposals to keep me at the top of my game. I never assumed I had the sale, even with my repeat, loyal, dedicated customers. I kept my edge by consistent follow up, being aware of what my competitors were doing and always, always, being ready to answer any question to help the client make a decision. 

Proposals were always sent in the budget provided, but more often than not, budget was never the issue in the client making that decision. It always came down to defining myself as the best solution-driven catering salesperson for their event. I let them know I could fix any challenge or problem on-site based on my experience. I made the clients feel that they had to do their event with me. That I was part of their team. 

Catering is a scary purchase for clients, especially first time buyers. Imagine being a bride and groom. The investment in a wedding is equal to purchasing a car. They feel anxious, nervous and excited, yet do not want to show their vulnerability when it comes spending the money. When a salesperson can ease that anxiety by showing they are there to solve any challenge, it develops a level of trust and partnership. Explaining the potential problems and “pitfalls” will ease their minds. Being proactive in these conversations let’s them know you have dealt with their fears before and you have a solution. At the end of the day, clients hire you out of “fear” of not hiring you!

Be this solution-driven salesperson and figure out how to get your message across to your potential clients. Have your toolbox prepared to show them your stuff. Always be ready to answer their questions and be creative with your solutions. You will win the business more often than not with this approach.

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Inspire.

I was out for my daily walk and decided to end it with a freshly squeezed orange juice. On street corners in Mexican cities, it is very common to see vendors working at metal carts and stands offering freshly made to order foods and beverages. A specialty cart near my condo was lined with oranges, grapefruits, herbs and vegetables with a woman making fabulous juices and smoothies.

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I wanted to bring home a simple “jugo de naranja” … orange juice. She cut the oranges, squeezed them freshly in front of me then poured the juice to the rim in a plastic cup. As I was about four blocks from my place, I asked her for a lid. “Lo siento”. No lids. Bummer, I didn’t want to spill on my clothes. I guess I’d just have to stand there and drink it, but I really wanted it with my toast and coffee in my condo.

No hay problema. She asked if I wanted a “bolsa”. “Si”. I was curious what she was going to do. She poured the juice into a thin plastic bag. Put a hot pink straw in and twisted it in a knot. ¡Hurra! The sale was made and I was happy. I walked home and did not spill a drop. She made a creative solution and had me as a return customer every day for the rest of the month.

The Human Touch

Eat. Drink.

Living in the culinary wonderland of Fulton Market in downtown Chicago, I have a choice of grabbing a cup o’ joe at several coffee houses within a half-mile radius.  Every custom blended local bean that can be grounded, roasted, steamed, poured-over and crafted imaginable. However my daily stroll takes me to the familiar green-logo’d mermaid a block away. Why? Not because they make the best cappuccino I have ever tasted; but because they have provided me the best customer service experience in the past ten years.  At this local corner shop, they have mastered the art of true hospitality through the human touch.

When you think of a corporate food service behemoth and the future of the hospitality industry, the conversation always leads to technological advances.  What does the consumer of today desire? Speed, efficiency and a “no wait” experience. Today’s urban consumer wants the ease of ordering from their smartphone. The drive-thru allows the suburban consumer to not even get out of their seat. Uber, DoorDash, Caviar and GrubHub have changed the face of our catering industry. Restaurants deliver food now and are “Caterers”. Technology has changed our world. It has certainly made things convenient for the customer. But is it better? Is it still the hospitality industry?

Jen and Jermaine

Jen and Jermaine

INSPIRE.

Several months ago I stopped in to grab my standard drink, a grande non-fat “dry” cappuccino. The barista was unfamiliar with “dry”, so I explained to him that I was recently educated on that as well (more foam, less milk). So as we were chatting up, I asked him his name. He said Jermaine. I said “Jermaine, I am Jen, it’s nice to meet you.” And it has been a pleasure to meet him. He has a lovely smile, demeanor and genuine pleasantness that is a welcome asset in any service industry.

Since my introduction to Jermaine, he has now trained others at the “shop”; “Lucy, that’s Jen. She has a grande non-fat dry cappuccino”.  There will be a line ten people deep and Jermaine will see me, smile and say “ Hi Jen!”.  You can see everyone in the line turn around thinking, who is this Jen person?  To think such a large corporation has created such a community for me as a customer, why would I go anywhere else that is so impersonal?

So each and every morning, I continue to marvel at the beauty of my simple five-minute hospitality experience. This really comes down human touch vs. technology.  When it comes to the service industry, I am still leaning toward the conversation, the smile, my daily hello and knowing someone’s name. I’m not just “Jen” on a label.  Thanks Jermaine.  I appreciate you keeping me in touch with true hospitality.