First, let me say: it’s good to be home. I’m just back from an extended vacation in France with my family. [Cue jealousy.]
One of the most memorable experiences we had was dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Table de Patrick Raingeard. While sipping my champagne and feasting on perfectly cooked duck, I reflected on what a good job the restaurant had done to ensure our customer experience was elevated.
You might not be one of the best restaurants in France, but these are customer experience lessons you can put to good use, too.
1. Anticipate Needs
The staff at the restaurant was well trained. We visited for brunch, which included free-flowing champagne. Now, being a connoisseur of the champagne brunch in the United States, I was accustomed to draining my glass before the harried server came over to refill. Not the case here. Before I was even halfway done with my champagne, the waiter would silently glide over and refill it. I was kept happy.
2. Make Customers Feel Like Family
I was a little concerned about feeling like we didn’t belong in such a fancy place, but I needn’t have worried. From the hotel concierge who greeted us by name and personally escorted us to the restaurant to the director of the restaurant (I imagine he’s like the maitre’d), everyone engaged in witty repartee and made us feel like they wanted us there. The young man whose job it was to help people navigate the buffet, after I inquired about items I might be allergic to, went to the kitchen to make sure he’d told me of all the potential shellfish pitfalls. Turns out there was another—on my plate, no less—that I should avoid. I was pleased that he went out of his way to make sure I wouldn’t bring up my delicious and expensive meal later.
3. Don’t Rush Them
How many times have you been in a restaurant and seen your waiter practically checking his watch, waiting for you to get up so he can turn the table over? We visited the restaurant at the end of the shift, and spent a good two hours there. We were the last ones dining. But not a single staff member started closing up and preparing for the next shift until we’d gotten up. The French have the whole dine-leisurely-for-hours thing down!
One of the customer experience lessons you need to learn is to let your customers take their time, whether that’s with the buying decision or coming back for more.
4. Exceed Expectations
Well, frankly my expectations were pretty high, given the Michelin star. But still, the food exceeded what I could have imagined. The entire experience was as satisfying as the meal. We left feeling like well-coddled babies.
5. Accommodate Your Customers
My husband and I both speak French fluently, and prefer to. We’ve run into waiters who try out their halting English on us, but honestly, it doesn’t usually make for better communication. Here, though, there were several British and American diners who didn’t speak French. It seemed to be a requirement that all the staff be fluent in English (and maybe other languages, too). When my French failed me at understanding the day’s specials, our server seamlessly translated it. This went a long way to making us comfortable.
I love gleaning lessons like these from my real-life experiences. Hopefully you can find ways to implement them in your business!
Editor’s Note: This was originally written for AllBusiness.