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Using ‘Criminally Bad Service’ Examples to Improve Performance – By Ken Burgin

Bad news always attracts the most attention… So using examples of poor or shocking service can be an effective way to show staff the levels of good service you expect them to offer.

The fact is, most customer service training is very boring! If you want it to stick, it needs to be much more lively…

Customer service guru Ron Kaufman has a great technique for analysing service levels to see how they can be improved.

He uses 6 Service Steps: from ‘criminal’ to ‘basic’ to ‘expected’, ‘desired’ and ‘surprising’ up to the ultimate of ‘unbelievable’.

Here’s the taxi ride example he uses:

The ‘criminal’ taxi driver would have a dirty car, take you the long way, overcharge, and not help with heavy luggage.

The ‘basic’ driver would get you there, but would have the radio too loud and ignore shortcuts to save time. You could go through the list with examples of each, until your ‘unbelievable’ journey in a comfortable taxi with magazines to read, choice of music, chilled water, help with luggage and a fast trip.

It’s a training technique that works well – allow staff to criticise an external example, then once they understand the method, turn it back to examine your own practice.

Most places give ‘expected’ service – the food is quite good, it’s served hot (but usually on cold plates), the tables don’t rock and the account is correct. Or the drinks are poured correctly, service is efficient and there’s room to sit down. But they don’t give you an edge over everyone else doing the same thing – these are the price of doing business these days. Everyone does them!

What we long to receive (and offer) is ‘surprising’ or ‘unbelievable’ service. Service that turns customers into ‘raving fans’. This doesn’t have to mean heart-stopping food or a free limo service. I was recently brought an extra slice of cake to take home (for free) after I had complimented the cafe waitress on how good it was. I know this isn’t standard practice there, but she decided to offer some ‘surprising’ service.

When I go to a favourite Thai restaurant, the plates for the food are always very hot – an example of ‘desired’ levels of service. Where would you place the refilling of wine glasses without asking?

Brainstorming will give you and your staff plenty of examples for all the steps, and a way to break out of most customer service discussions that often end up as nagging. Then you can decide what’s practical and affordable, and how much of a stretch you’re willing to make. How could you move up one level? The 6 Service Steps breaks away form the boring Good-OK-Bad model, and is a very powerful way to classify poor service that needs attention. Your customers will notice the difference.




Profitable Hospitality offers management and cost-control systems (Manuals & CD-ROMs) for restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars and clubs. The systems are based on the extensive consulting and operating experience of CEO Ken Burgin, and enable busy owners and managers to set up complete operating and cost-control systems in minutes, not months. Profitable Hospitality also runs regular management training workshops in the areas of kitchen profit & efficiency, restaurant marketing and functions management. A free monthly e-newsletter keeps you up to date on the latest industry management issues. www.profitablehospitality.com.

Posted by on February 28, 2012.

Categories: Features

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