Thursday, June 2

Service: part 3 of 3

our priorities at Vintage are: Service, Product, Speed.  in that order.  Service is always first, Product is second, and Speed is always important - but never more so than Service or Product.

Great Service is a Relationship

Service is as different between any two people as a relationship can be.  As no two relationships are exactly the same, so are no two examples of service.  But there are common elements to Service:

• Sincerity - Service can only be effective when it is sincere.  This is just something that simply can not be faked.  You have to honestly want to help your customers in order to pull this one off.

• Personality - first you have to have one, and second you have to be brave enough to be yourself.  Consumers aren't impressed when you put on a corporate attitude like putting on a uniform.  If you act like a person, people will treat you like one.

• Listening - people simply want to be heard.  Whether giving you their order, or telling you about their day, the most important thing you can do is listen.  Active listening is a good idea: eye contact, nodding, asking relevant questions without interrupting and acknowledging what you hear.

• Attitude - simply being positive and upbeat, a real smile.  Genuinely wanting to be helpful, and genuinely sorry when you can't be.    This can not be substituted by a fake smile and pretending to be super perky, either you choose to have a great attitude or you really shouldn't be helping customers.

• Knowledge - actually knowing how your product is made, and what it is made out of.  Knowing history, trivia, stories - all of this is helpful when talking about your product and answering questions.  Humility and the patience of a kind teacher are required with this one, otherwise you just look smug and pretentious.

• Talent - it helps a lot to be equipped with the skills needed to bring people what they want, even when you are busy with other customers and tasks.  This is a life-long process, as i am still learning new skills all the time.

• Confidence - it takes confidence in order to treat others with dignity.  Speaking to new customers you don't know isn't easy, it takes practice.  And with practice comes confidence.  Careful - over-confidence will work to your detriment.

• Openness - you have to be willing to admit when you don't know something, or when you've made a mistake.  In order to give a customer the confidence to trust you and in turn be open themselves, you have to just let people see the real you.  This can be especially tough when you've been treated poorly by customers.

• Perseverance - you just gotta keep trying.  Knowing that mistakes are part of the learning process, and that each customer is a new and challenging relationship you are bound to screw up sometimes.  It would be easy to fall into redundant patterns of "what would you like" and "have a nice day", but you know how trite it sounds coming out of your mouth.  Never quit trying.

i hope i've given you something to think about for the next time you are with a customer.  or even the next time someone is serving you.  But now i'm interested in how you define Great Service?

Service: part 2 of 3

our priorities at Vintage are: Service, Product, Speed.  in that order.  Service is always first, Product is second, and Speed is always important - but never more so than Service or Product.

What Service is NOT
Not only have i been in the Food Service industry since 1987, but i have been a big fan of food.  And a lot of that food has come from other restaurants.  i like to see what they do, how they do it and what makes them tick.  Some do a great job, others not so much.  The first few years of our marriage, Carie did not enjoy eating out with me.  i simply was too harsh a critic and wouldn't just calm down, enjoy my meal (and company) and look for the positive aspects of our dining experience.  I have learned, however, in the past couple decades exactly what Good Service is NOT:

The Sycophant Faker: this style of service is full of proper manners and compliments and "yes, maam, right away, maam!" while they are in front of you, but the second they get out of hearing distance you know they are telling their co-workers how terrible you are.  They think they are telling you want to hear, but instead they are really telling you is that they hate their job.

Too Cool for School: this style of service makes it very clear that you are not worthy of their time.  You obviously don't know anything about the product you are ordering, and your fashion sense is laughable.  The rolling of the eyes, the exasperated sighs, correcting you and impatience is meant to tell you that you just don't measure up, but what it really says is "i am insecure, and it makes me feel better about myself when i make you want to please me".

Stressed and Full of Excuses:  this style of service is not as much as a style as it is a lack of skills.  The service industry can be fast paced, with multiple tasks to accomplish and lots of customers to serve.  Proper staffing is a mix of skill, artistry, accurate predictions and plain dumb luck.  Needless to say, nearly every place is either overstaffed or understaffed many times a day.  While often a valid reason, this does not make for a proper excuse.  A skilled service professional might apologize once or twice, but their main focus is hustling, prioritizing their actions and fulfilling the needs of their customer.

Bored and Inattentive: this style of service signals a worker who has forgotten why they are on the job.  They put on the uniform, show up (more or less) and watch the clock until it is time to leave.  They will do as little as they can to get by, and they think that somehow the world, their boss and their customers owe them something for the pitiful effort.

No Personality: this style can be heard to say "i don't really eat/drink anything on the menu, but lots of people like the number 27 with cheese" or "are you ready to order?" or "is everything OK?" or "have a nice day" in the most flat, uninterested voice they can muster.  This person is simply going through the motions, much like the Bored and Inattentive.

Overly Attentive Zealot: this style is following a formula they learned in corporate training about seven minutes ago.  It looks something like this, "Why, Hello! It's a great day at __________ , my name is ________ and i'm gonna be your best friend for the next 47 minutes! (squats down next to the table) Can i interest you in our New Honey-Chipotle-Ranch Jimmywanger?"  This style is quick to refill your water/tea/coffee clear to the rim of the cup, every 3 minutes.  They are offering dessert options when you are about 3 bites into your meal.  They seem very enthusiastic and energetic, this won't last.  Come back in a few weeks and they look more like one of the above styles.

The Charity Case: this style isn't as much working as it is begging.   While they may not mention it, they make it clear that they make less than minimum wage.  They may be quick to mention one or five of the hard times from their life.  They look at you with sad puppy eyes and tug at your heartstrings, or at least they try.  Somehow this individual came to think that tips are charity, instead of an indication of hard work and talent.

 Now, i'm not pointing fingers.  i've found myself falling into all of the above styles at one time or another.  But then i remember that my income is directly relational to exactly how hard i work.  Good Service is not formulaic or contrived or easy.  It takes work and dedication, and occasionally putting your foot in your mouth. 

But it IS worth working towards!

What say you?  What poor service styles have you observed?

Service: part 1 of 3

our priorities at Vintage are: Service, Product, Speed.  in that order.  Service is always first, Product is second, and Speed is always important - but never more so than Service or Product.

Service is a word that is largely misunderstood and/or misused.  

At some point during the rise of fast food, it became synonymous with speed.  As long as the customer got their food quickly, the mission was accomplished.  Don't get me wrong, Speed is important, it is one of our priorities.  But it never takes the place of Service.

The last 50+ years has seen a domination in the service industry by national chains.  And with that has come a gradual decline in the expectations of consumers.  Service became not a measure of excellence, but instead a minimum expectation level to be met.  As long as the customer is greeted in an acceptable time frame, treated pleasantly, and their needs fulfilled as well as can be expected, all is well.  Right?


Service is from the same meaning as the words: Serf, Servant, Slave.  

A good servant in ancient days was one that happily accomplished the tasks set forth by their master without the need of further prompting (beating, threats, shouting, etc.).  A great servant was one who anticipated their master's needs before the master did.  A great servant was capable of completing tasks often well beyond the skill set of their master.  A great servant quietly and confidently went about accomplishing the business of his master with little or no direction.

Now, certainly, in a society of "all men created equal" i do not intend to infer that those of us in the Service industry are second or third class citizens (although a few spoiled and rude people like to think they can treat us as such).  No, i believe that service personnel are just like everyone, but with a proud and simple mission to accomplish: Excellence.

 Most jobs in our economy are actually Service jobs.  If you buy clothes or groceries or car parts or electronics, the person you talk to is in the business of Service. (NOT a cashier; when did ringing things up become a profession?)  When you need work done on your house or your lawn mowed or technical assistance for your computer, you talk to someone in a Service industry. Even doctors and lawyers are providing a Service.  (Those in elected office would do well to remember that theirs is a position of Service to those who elected them.)

What does REAL Service look like?

i think we see it so rarely anymore, that we hardly know what GREAT service looks like.  in my opinion, a true professional approaches their Service as one who is welcoming a friend into their house.  They want to be sure that their friend is comfortable and if they have food or drink, they share.  A gracious host listens, asks relevant questions, and then listens some more.  They want to know their friend by name (not so they can put them in some database and add them to a mailing list) and what is going on in their life.  A good host makes themselves available to what their friend needs.  Good Service looks more like a relationship than a business transaction.

(CAVEAT - In an attempt to create the appearance of GREAT service, the industry coined the phrase "The Customer is Always Right".  Which, in my opinion, is correct; unless the customer is wrong.  As usual, a few spoiled individuals thought this gave them the liberty to treat those serving them poorly.  Know This: in my business or my home, if you abuse my friends, i WILL ask you to leave.)

Excellent service has been the #1 priority at Vintage since the day we first opened the doors.  We don't just want your business, we want to know you.  We don't imagine Vintage as just another coffee shop, we want it to be THE neighborhood coffee shop (which is why we didn't put it on a busy street). 

Our goal is to provide excellent service to every customer, every time.  We want to anticipate your needs and surpass your expectations.  If i, or any of my staff, fail to do this - please let me know! 

thanks friend!

Tuesday, October 5

Rules: Intended for rule-breakers?

one of the challenges each small business owner faces is when and where to make rules. rules for employees and for customers. where do you draw the line? how do you deal with inappropriate behavior? are there clear lines that need to be set forth? do people require guard rails in order to behave according to your expectations?

we have had our fair share of decisions to make regarding customers: how to deal with campers (people that sit for a long time), cell phone use, large orders in the drive-thru, using the WiFi and not buying anything, one person taking up a four-top (table for four), kids, dogs, et cetera. i could bore you all day.

we also had to decide how to govern our employees: dress code, hair code, tardiness, missing shifts, drinking and eating on the clock, handling money, dealing with unruly customers, breaks, schedule request, on and on ad nausea.

i had worked in food service industry for over 20 years and i had a very clear idea of all these types of rules, who would break them (and how), and the short/long term consequences of drawing the lines. and i did NOT want to be the type of manager who ends up being little more than a babysitter to the employees and customers.

so we went a different direction.

we started with the assumption that people are mature, reasonable and trustworthy. what kind of lines need to be drawn if they are? hmmm...not many. why not set as few rules as possible and just give everyone the benefit of the doubt?

but, but, BUT! what about those scofflaws who will insist on pushing the boundaries? those who will cheat, steal, lie and harm puppies must be confined and restrained and in general told what they can not do! true. very true.


what good will it do to make rules those types of people will break anyway? why constrain those who otherwise don't need it? aren't most rules made as hasty reactions and then enforced on the general population who don't really need them?

if we assume that all people are mature, reasonable and trustworthy (until they prove otherwise) what good is an all-encompassing blanket rule? we decided to deal with those who break the natural laws of human behavior on a case-to-case basis. we empowered our employees to say "no" if the situation calls for it. (WHAT? isn't the customer ALWAYS right? well, yes....except when they are wrong.) we gave them the freedom to make decisions as mature human beings. we also made sure that Vintage was a mistake-friendly zone. if you were not making mistakes, it may be because you were not working hard enough.

nearly four years after opening, we are very pleased with the results! in that time we have only had to fire one person, and have discussions with specific employees five different times. our employees are the hardest-working, most problems-solving, friendly and willing to go way beyond expectations bunch of people you could ever hope to meet. and (i've said it before) our customers are the BEST in the world.

give trust and you will be given trust. choose to honor and you will be honored. treat people like mature adults, and they will surprise and impress you.

and if they don't, you deal with it quickly in a compassionate, even-tempered way.

that is our recipe, what say YOU?

Sunday, July 18

who is this joker?

or - what? another blog?

a little bit about myself; i am a 38 years old male who lives in oklahoma city (yes, by choice).  i have been married for nearly 15 years and have two girls, ages 7 and 2.  we have owned the business Vintage timeless Coffee  for three years.  i have a degree in Advertising/Public Relations (that took me 10+ years to get) and i have worked in the food service industry for 22 years.

i am an extremely flawed individual with poor habits who is fortunately loved by God.  i am (by nature) an introvert who has learned to reasonably function in business and society.  i love my 93 Toyota 4x4 truck, my poor-broken-soon-to-be-sold 85 Toyota MR2 and most anything else on wheels.  i am fond of a lot of different beers and wines and whiskeys, but i seek to only drink in moderation.  i love to eat or cook a lot of different styles of food, but i seek to only eat until i am full.  i am not (by nature) an early adopter, although i did just buy an iPad. 

for those of you i have not succeeded in thoroughly scaring away, read on!