The Foccacia Incident: Why You Must Train Your Food Business’s Customer Service StaffPosted by Jessica Oman
When I was 18, I worked in a bakery on Granville Island. On a busy Saturday an indecisive couple approached the counter and despite the long line of people behind them, they spent several minutes pointing and asking questions about the different products while I became more frustrated by the second. I wanted to get through the line, and they were acting like it wasn’t even there.
Finally the couple decided on a Foccacia round. I grabbed it, bagged it and rang it into the till. No sooner could I hold out my hand for the money than the request came:
“Oh, um…could you just cut that up into 8 equal slices for us?”
Eyes like daggers, I stomped around to the butcher block, tossed the bread onto the counter, and went to grab a knife, while two dozen customers waited impatiently.
By the time I looked up, the couple had disappeared. Well! No surprise there.
Since that day I’ve learned a thing or two about customer service. Yet so many owners of food retailers, restaurants and bakeries still hire young workers who don’t know a thing about how to treat a customer.
That’s not surprising. I mean, they are teenagers and for many this is their first job. How can they be expected to come with innate customer service skills?
The surprising part is how many of these businesses don’t bother with any customer service training. It’s “here’s how to operate the cash register, here’s how to display some loaves of bread, here’s how to package up a meal to go. Oh, and be nice to the customers.”
Be nice? What does that even mean?
“Be nice” was all the training I was given. And I was nice. Except when people were annoying. And my definition of “annoying” could change from day to day.
When you are building a business with front-line staff, never forget that they represent your brand. And when you’re in the office making supply orders or balancing your books, your front line staff also represent YOU. Don’t you want to be sure they know what’s expected of them? And how else can they know, if you don’t tell them?
Training for front-line staff should include scenario-based practice, where staff learn how to handle different types of customers in different types of situations. They need protocol. They need you to emulate what you want them to do. They need practice, and they need feedback. Build this time into your recruitment budget.
It’s so much more important than making sure they can make a cash register open or properly bag up some bread.
Photo credit: avlxyz