Effective CRM Progressively Enhances Customer Experience

It is common knowledge in the business world that “the customer is always right”. This age old adage has been the mantra for all business types whether or not in every instance the owner actually believes that is the case. Often business owners find the opportunity for employee sensitivity to be one-dimensional. Handling customers' needs only after there has been a negative issue opposed to providing training in how to deal with a variety of scenarios successfully during their hiring process would defuse any negative ties to your business.

Have you ever been in a restaurant and noticed that difficult patron that has an issue with their table, their silverware, their drink, their meal and then finally their bill? If you haven’t witnessed an incident like this one first hand you might have been the difficult patron, but I digress.

Recently on a dinner outing with some friends, I had the privilege of witnessing two of the greatest exhibitions of employee sensitivity and customer relationship management that I had ever seen before. It’s already understood that a job that deals with the public in such a personal manner (that of feeding you) would have to be dealt with in a very thoughtful and sensitive manner, but the length of patience entailed by the employees in the restaurant business are unparalleled.

First, a woman and her husband were out for what seemed like a romantic diner for two. They were escorted to their table close to the bar area as the hostess motioned them to their seats, immediately the woman glanced around and noticed a more appealing table. She then informed the hostess that she would rather be seated away from the bar and blatantly demanded another table. Although it was a full restaurant and customers were being seating by a rotating station method the hostess complied with the woman’s request and proceeded to seat them next to my table (a table for a larger party) and let them know that a member of the wait staff would be over soon. The hostess obviously ignored protocol and made adjustment to appease the couple.

Next, as the couple sat waiting for their server the woman systematically began to pick apart all that she didn’t like about the table. I knew for certain that this was not going to be good.  Finally the waiter approached their table and introduced himself. Before he could get out another sentence the woman began with her complaint. “Wow, it took you forever to get over to our table, we’ve been waiting for over 15 minutes with no bread or drinks.” The woman was rude and a bit condescending with her remarks.

I braced myself for the waiter’s response. “I am so sorry ma’am we had a slight issue with our computer system, but it is back up, I apologize for the wait, can I get you a complimentary beverage while you decide on your orders?” I was shocked at the calm and composure in which the waiter handled the customers attitude and obviously so was the woman.

Her only response was “Thank you so much I will have a lemonade.” In an instant the situation was defused. At the end of the evening the waiter brought over their bill and thanked them for their service, apologized again for the wait earlier and invited them to visit their website and fill out a customer survey for a discount coupon for their next meal.

No doubt both the hostess and the waiter had been trained in employee sensitivity and making sure that regardless of the situation the customer is always right and should be made priority and appeased in every way possible. In today’s competitive business arena building your customer base and maintaining them makes a difference. Had the hostess not complied with their table change or the waiter had openly taken offense to the woman’s tone not only would they have probably never returned to the restaurant but undoubtedly they would of taken the opportunity to enter in negative reviews of their experience on the survey. 

Tracking customer opinions
In the restaurant business alone the opportunity for operational CRM and collaborative CRM can be the foundation for a successful business. After all the lifeline of the business can be gauged by word-of-mouth experiences that tie into a more structured and analytical process of surveying a customers experiences and how the employees handle their needs. Another key tool to ensure CRM success is social CRM, using which an organization can use Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and more to clearly determine the mindsets of specific types of customers, forecast demand for new products or services and track customers' experiences with their frontline staff.

I learnt later from a friend who is a food critic with a local magazine, that the couple at the restaurant were probably eating there for the first time. Usually, the staff would use their CRM software to study the preferences of a regular customer and carefully optimize their dining experience by making suggestions based on a carefully collated holistic customer profile which would include details of their feedback form, social networking comments of relevance and information (date, time, branch, etc.) on their previous visits including what dishes they ordered. 

For example, if they know a particular customer is allergic to seafood and enjoys drinking vintage wine, they would accordingly shortlist the most relevant items from their kitchen and cellar to offer the guest. With time, they would build strong customer loyalty by continually optimizing their shortlist of food and wine to offer this customer based on previous customer interactions.

Training employees to deal with all kinds of customers, the many demands and in some cases personality issues weigh heavy. As business owners, it is imperative that you champion your employees with the training necessary to succeed in making your customers priority and implementing tools that can gauge those experiences.