I'm not out to take anything away from the rest of the staff at one of our favorite restaurants here in Sarasota, but last night we had an outstanding evening and for the most part it was thanks to a waitress named "Barb". Here's the scenario: a couple times a year we love to go to Flemings. Dinner is always consistently good and the service is terrific. We've had the same waitress on several occasions.
Trust me, there's a great link here to your business as a photographer. Since this is a blog to help you with the building blocks for success, I want to apply what Barb does to your own customer service policies and style.
- She always remembers us. We haven't been to Flemings since last March, but she remembered our names. Remembered another time that was a particularly funny night when we there with friends and she simply makes us feel like our table is her top priority.
So, there's the first tip from the "Book of Barb"...make every client feel terrific about the experience of working with you. Matthew Jordan Smith talks about it in his recent podcast.
- We ordered the least expensive bottle of Merlot on the list, but it's one we have at home now and then and we just enjoy it. When it was served Barb brought out the decanter with the bottle, something that most restaurants don't do anymore unless you ask.
There's another tip, she gave our meal the same attention on the front line that the chef was going to do from the kitchen.
- She came back and checked on us a couple times throughout dinner. She didn't just ask, "Everything okay?" She asked if we liked her suggestion on some of the things we tried.
There's the third tip. During a portrait session, especially, do you simply take the time to talk to your subjects? I'm not suggesting you discuss their life story, just check on them like Barb did. You'll be able to see from their expression if they're enjoying the experience.
- I had what Flemings calls a "small plate" last night, three lamb chops and on one trip by, Barb asked if they were cooked the way I wanted them. Two were perfect, but one one was on the well done side. Within five minutes she brought out another one, done exactly as ordered.
There's the fourth tip from the Book of Barb. When there is a problem, exceed customer expectations. When you have even the slightest challenge with a client, do you go over board to resolve the issue immediately?
- Last on the list, after we'd paid the check she got our ticket for the valet so the car would be there when we walked out. She handed Sheila a small box, since we had passed on dessert and then explained which of the four goodies in the box were for her and which two were mine. (Sheila's gluten intolerant and she remembered.) As we got up to leave, Sheila instinctively gave her a hug and I followed. Come on, when was the last time anybody hugged their waitress?
And there's the last lesson...make your customers want to come back. The success of your business is built on relationship building. Angela Carson talked about it in a great podcast she did about her portrait business. Over 60% of her family portrait work is from returning customers. Yes, a huge part of your success is about the quality of your work and your skill set as an artist, but a great experience becomes something people talk about.
And just when I thought there was nothing else that could be done to top off the dinner, I woke up this morning to an email from the restaurant. I know, it's an automatic response, because I'd made the reservation on line but just the fact that they added one final touch shows that management walks the talk...just like Barb.
"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so." Mahatma Gandhi