I just returned from a very quick (one day!) trip to Manhattan. I love being in the city, especially during the Christmas season. So, going for one day is better than not being able to be there at all, especially at this time of the year. The beautiful Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, the window displays in so many stores, and the magical feel of the hustle and bustle of the city all beckoned to me. Although this trip was especially short, I was glad that I went. Even with 18-degree weather and air traffic delays, it was more than worth it. And this time, there was another reason that made the trip special. The service of a restaurant maître d.
Redeye Grill is a restaurant that Mike and I have enjoyed many times through the years. The food is always delicious, the décor is inviting, and the service has always been good. This time, we expected no less. We probably did not expect anything out of the ordinary, however. I certainly did not expect to hear six simple words that would create an excellent customer service experience, one that I will long remember. But that is what happened.
We did not have a reservation, and would not have been surprised if we had to wait before being seated. After all, this is a very busy season. When we arrived at the hostess stand, I was expecting to be asked, “Do you have a reservation?” Instead, we were greeted with a “Hello,” a smile, and the words, “Did we know you were coming?” The tone of voice was warm and friendly, and those six simple words, “Did we know you were coming?” was a much better way to ask, “Do you have a reservation?” I hope that you can hear and feel the difference.
I have taught and spoken about customer service for many years. In those sessions, I have recommended against what I refer to as “Smiles Training.” You know the drill. The service provider says, “Have a nice day” when it is 9 o’clock at night as he throws your food across the counter! And, how many times have you been asked, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Smiles training. Ineffective in creating a positive memorable experience.
Think about the difference in “Do you have a reservation?” and “Did we know you were coming?” The words “Do you have reservation” puts the burden on the customer and is more of a negative experience if the customer has to say, “No,” recognizing that it is easier for the establishment and the customer if a reservation was made. The words “Did we know you were coming” puts the responsibility more on the establishment.” Hear the difference between “Did You?” and “Did we?” A simple, but powerful difference.
Surprisingly, we did not have to wait to be seated. And right after being seated, the same customer service expert maître d brought us each a glass of champagne! The food and service that followed continued the excellent experience.
I do not know if the Redeye Grill has trained its staff to say, “Did we know you were coming?” instead of “Do you have a reservation?” That does not even matter to me unless it becomes so rote that it is meaningless. What matters is that those six words created a positive and memorable customer service experience that will remain with me. That is more important than the champagne, although that nice touch further enhanced the experience.
I am encouraged to listen to my own words and find ways to make them more positive and engaging. It is such a simple thing, but certainly not easy.
I will remember how I felt when asked, “Did we know you were coming?”