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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blazing Customer Service: Served With Pizza Pies and Bowling

Just this past weekend I walked into a new eatery called “Flatbreads,” and my expectations were rather flat themselves.  I went just to be aaccommodating to close friends who were intrigued. Otherwise, why would I want to eat things on bread so lazy it couldn’t bother to rise? That may have been the joke I made, but it didn’t get much of a laugh from my friends either. My smirk, though, turned to smiles with the warm greeting of the hostess and the service person. Their tone and expressions communicated that was not just a diner to them. Before I could become a diner I was a person first. I was begining to be charmed by these customer service skills, and wondered if there had been some employmee development at work, to augment the natural sweetness of New Englanders. 

The surprises continued! The next thing I saw (and heard) were 10 shiny bowling lanes; and the first smells that floated to me were definitely not wood wax and shoe leather. The aromas were delicious!  And the surprise of 10 bowling alleys in a pizza parlor tickled me. This was even better than the bocce courts in the original Bertucci’s years ago. Even if the combination of other stuff with flatbread turned out to be not so great, the combo of bowling and eating was delightful. This was my first hint of how cued into customer delight they were. Adding to that, the lanes were for candlepin, not 10 pin (big ball) bowling. I don’t think other regions of  North America have candlepin bowling, but to a northern New Englander or eastern Canadian, this meant, among other things, less noise from the crashing of large objects into other large objects. This was my second indication of the owners’ thinking of their customers, because it meant that conversation (an audible exchange of thoughts) could actually take place at the tables at the back. 

My third indication of the restaurant thinking “outside the pizza box” about its customers were the small tables at each lane, almost every one covered by a large pizza pie. So you didn’t have to eat or bowl, you could do both at the same time—so long as you could grip the ball in with your greasy hand! I laughed at this, and this time out loud. I was impressed by the way they had anticipated a number of the needs their customers might not have even suspected, and provided for them all. That is delighting your customers, this previously reluctant one included.

Since I had many times trained the NetSpeed Learning Solutions customer service training program Blazing Service, my mind leaped like a trainer-frog to several principles of excellent service the modules teach. “Thinking Like Your Customer” and “Winning Customer Hearts and Minds” immediately came to mind. The bowling alley owners/restaurateurs had clearly anticipated what their restless-diner and hungry-bowler customers might unconsciously want, and added these to delight them. Management was certainly winning my heart and mind. I was thinking their praises and falling in love—even before sitting down.

Now, all they had to do was make the food worthy of my ardor. It would all be in the details: bread and toppings. Well, when I looked at the menu I swooned at the embarrassment of choices—all “al a carte,” so to speak. There were no standard pies, such as the Farmyard Foul, Mediterranean Medley, or  Dean Martin. All were built to your order from an amazing array of ingredients: mushrooms, onions, peppers and sausages were the most ordinary. Now there was choice. On the spot, I saw the wisdom of two key principle of service in the Blazing Service module “Solving Customer Problems”: “Present options and solutions,” then “Allow the customer to choose.” It’s as if the restaurant had anticipated my problem with just another pizza place, and given me a surprising array of choices and the right to choose any or (and presumable if not consumable) all of them. And when all our orders had come, we were delighted by the flavors and by the crispiness of the bread, too. Plus, as a bonus, our conversations were audible through the distant rumble in the alleys. They were engaging, too—though that we had to bring to the table.

Posted by Brant Blumstein at 8:50 pm

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