I recently had the great pleasure to watch how superior customer service is masterfully performed when it often seems difficult to find these days. Here’s the quick story and the three marketing lessons it can teach all of us.

Tony note: I get more requests from associations and companies to teach my session, Exceptional Mind Capture Customer Service, than any other program I offer. I went back in the archives and found a timeless true story I shared a few years ago that reminded me once again of the timeless power and impact that superior customer service plays in any business. Enjoy!

My mom and I went to one of our favorite local restaurants this past Tuesday night in Muskegon, Michigan. Brann’s Sizzling Steaks has been around since 1960, and now has over 9 locations throughout the state. When we eat there, we enjoy the great food, the atmosphere, and their specials, but most of all something that is difficult for many businesses to provide on a consistent basis: great customer service.

I noted that when we sat down, our waitress was happy and very knowledgeable about the daily specials. Sensing that my special guest (mom) and I were engaged in a great conversation, she read the situation carefully and came back a few minutes later to take our drink order. In less than a minute the drinks arrived, and she then proceeded to take our dinner order, and walked away.

She returned to our table a few minutes later with our dinner rolls and to also inform us of a special promotion they had going involving a drawing for a pair of Detroit Lions football tickets against the Chicago Bears. We let her quickly explain the sign-up form and when she returned with dinner we both gave her our completed entry forms. At the end of the meal she asked us if we had room for dessert, with which we said “no” as we were both stuffed. She then thanked us again for coming in and then returned with our dinner bill.

On the surface, this experience may seem mundane and ordinary. However, as we left the restaurant, we both were amazed not only by how friendly our waitress was (the food’s always great too), but also how everyone else from the young gentleman who opened the door for us, to the hostess who seated us were also extremely friendly as well.

So, here are the three big marketing lessons from Brann’s Sizzling Steaks that anyone can learn from and apply within their own business or organization.

#1. The first impression with customers is the key. When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by the door being opened for us by a young, happy man saying “Welcome!” Now this may not seem like a big deal, but it is, and here’s why: It’s rarely done these days, with notable exception being the classic Wal-Mart greeter. In addition, it was different from most food establishments, and started the dining experience off with a good feeling before we were even seated.

In an age of bruised consumer confidence, I’m stunned as to why most businesses often make the first impression with customers so lackluster and unmemorable. Customers have great choice and are often silently begging to find people and firms that they can trust, and who also make them feel like their patronage is valued and respected.

So many employees in all kinds of businesses act as if customers are an annoyance or interruption. This is not only foolish, but it is also often a huge reason why so many businesses are struggling with repeat business and positive word-of-mouth. We all have our own poor customer service stories to prove this point.

#2. Hire for attitude and train for skills. With the huge competition for jobs in many industries, I tell employers that hiring for attitude is of huge importance. Yes, some industries you need the specific skills, but in many service based industries, people that have a great attitude are often the most teachable and should be looked at with greater interest in the interviewing process.

Know-it-all types of candidates and employees, unless trained and held accountable, often become the most troublesome part of any organization, not just to those they work with, but more importantly, with the person who really signs their paycheck, the customer!

#3. Have fun and gather customer information. What I liked about the contest our waitress asked us to participate in was that it was timely, relevant, and wasn’t oversold. She seemed very natural letting us know about the promotion, how easy it was to enter, and what to do next if we were interested. This was not an accident. It comes down to her positive attitude to not just make the offer, but also her willingness to follow the training she was given from her manager.

So many businesses attempt to gather customer information, but do it in a clumsy and often uncomfortable manner. They either don’t train the staff regularly or they assume that their staff will feel compelled to ask for customers contact information. This is a dangerous mistake. Most employees, again unless properly trained, will put in little if any extra effort to gather a customer’s contact information, unless it’s made a priority.

Millions of times a day, businesses allow a potential fortune in customers and prospects to walk right through the front door, and then let them walk right back out without ever knowing who they are and effective ways to stay in touch with them. What a shame indeed.

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