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Customer Service – The Keys To Success

Written by: Pierre Bauzee, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


What are the keys to success to deliver an outstanding service? To answer this question, let’s first of all understand one of the most important part in customer service: people’s expectations. Something is sure, an outstanding service is not only delivered in 5-star establishments or in iconic restaurants.

Standards of service and quality of the product may be higher in these kinds of places than in more common ones but an outstanding service can be definitely delivered in every type of establishment, just in different levels. When you are going to a restaurant to live an experience, your expectations will be related to the level of service that you are supposed to receive. In other words, clients will most part of the time know what to expect. Therefore, the way they will be satisfied by the quality of service or food will be highly related to the expectations they were having beforehand. As your expectations as a client will be higher in an establishment with a higher level of service, you can end up in situations where you are disappointed by the experience in these types of places contrary to a more common place where you really enjoyed it.

Understanding your position in the market as a business

This is exactly why in order to make your clients happy you need to know where you are positioned in the market, what concept and level of service you are having or what are your prices and marketing strategy. Only by picturing in detail all these different aspects, only by knowing how you want to serve your clients, only by knowing how you want to advertise your brand will you be able to know your clientele’s expectations. The first key to success in order to deliver an outstanding service is to 1 make sure you know your clientele’s expectations and 2 make sure it is the one you want to set. Always ask yourself on a daily basis: Are we really offering and advertising what we are serving? Are our prices matching our quality? Is what we are advertising really matching with the style and quality of service we are having? Most part of the time if clients are unhappy with something when being served, it may not be because your service was poor. It may be because the expectations of your clients wasn’t the correct one. Of course, if one of your client’s expectations isn’t the correct one, it may simply not be your fault. But there is no way you can deliver an outstanding service to your clientele if you haven’t been able to both analyse and manage their expectations beforehand through your own offer and marketing strategy. Marketing nowadays is taking such a big place in businesses’ performance that you have to do it right. Yes, it is crucial to advertise your brand in order to attract new clients but you want to do it in a good way. In order to do so, your marketing strategy needs to be realistic and matching with what you are offering so you are the one setting both your clientele’s expectations and positioning on the market.

Back to basics

When it comes to deliver an outstanding service, the mistake that many people and businesses do is to forget basics. On many occasions, the quality of service in an establishment may be going down simply because simple basics are being forgotten. Going back to basics and focus more on the way you are structured and organized will be the first step to a great quality of service. For instance having up-to-date standards and procedures or having an organized and cleaned back of house area are basics that you definitely need to have before thinking of ideas, improvements and or ways to go above and beyond your clientele’s expectations. Standards and procedures (SOPs) is the skeleton of your organization but also the base of the quality of service delivered to your clients. SOPs will indeed help you to be consistent on the way things are done and to always deliver the same level of service to your clients.

Coming to consistency, delivering a service of quality cannot be done without it. Quality and consistency are indeed two notions closely related and the reason is simple: an outstanding service must be delivered at all times and must therefore be consistent. It is actually one of the most difficult parts of delivering such a service as it requires a perfect structure, organization and standards of service but also a team perfectly aware of them. As a business, before even starting to speak about ways of going above and beyond your clientele’s expectations, you must ensure that everyone within your team is well aware of the basics to follow as well as perfectly organized following your internal organisation so the same quality of service is being delivered to your clientele in a consistent way. Remember, customer service cannot be outstanding one day and poor the other. Therefore, the key to success in customer service is not to be able to reach out a certain level of quality, but actually being able to maintain it in the long term.

To conclude, what you must also understand when you want to deliver an outstanding service, is that not only the "emerged part of the iceberg" is important. If you take the example of a watch, in order to have the watch indicating the time, there is a whole very precise and sophisticated mechanic inside the watch and the most expensive watch is most part of the time the ones with the most sophisticated mechanic inside. It is exactly the same when it comes to an outstanding service. To understand what service of quality is, you must, first of all, see this service as a result. A result of a system in place that keeps your team performing well. An outstanding customer service is indeed a result of a great organisation, communication and basics in place within the team.

Attention to details

Something that is not to leave aside when it comes to outstanding service, is to have attention to details. As a customer, when you are going to a place to live a wonderful experience, what you may remember and what may affect your appreciation (or not) of the service is on many occasions details. It can go from a way of serving something to some little attentions and recognitions, or even how everything is set and organized to perfection. To take the example of hotels, every 5-star establishment got high standards of service. So what makes the difference between a 5-star hotel to another? On many occasions, details is one of the aspect that may differentiate your establishment from your competitors.

These details don't always have to be related to standards of service or the quality of the product. Indeed, one of the very good ways to make a real impact on your clientele’s satisfaction is to give to them a “personalised” service by focusing on these details and therefore making their moment memorable. For example, calling a Guest by his/her last name, bringing specific amenities to the guest's rooms you know they like or remember a special occasion such as a birthday or wedding anniversary. You will indeed have a positive impact on the emotional perception of your clients. It is like a present; sometimes what you will like the most in presents is not the present itself but the attention given or the fact the person offering it to take the time and make the effort to make someone happy. And believe me when I tell you that if you really like customer service, you will take pleasure in doing so. The idea of “making the effort and taking pleasure in doing so” is exactly the same idea that you should follow when it comes to please your guests. It doesn't have to be something big as long as you show to your clients that you do really care and not only pretend to. It is actually on many occasions one of the number one ways to make a client loyal to your establishment.

A team effort

In order to deliver an outstanding service in a consistent way, everyone within the team must get involved in this goal. It is indeed crucial that everyone within the team ensure they are delivering the quality of service that is required by the company’s standards. If one person within the team is not doing so, the quality of service may not be as consistent as you wish it to be. This is why as a business you must ensure that you have very clear standards and that they are being well communicated to your team. And as an employee, you must ensure that you perfectly assimilate these standards and that the service you are delivering is done according to them.

The second aspect to follow in order to have a whole team delivering the same quality of service is to have everyone perfectly trained. And it starts straight from the beginning with a good induction plan in place for new team members. A new team member who had a perfect induction including great documents, tools, training and environment as well as great support and advice from team members will be the key to success to ensure that your employee is in the best conditions to exceed in customer service. Everyone must indeed participate to a new team member's induction and not only the person in charge. Constant training and feedback as well as perfect communication when a standard of service is changed or something new is implemented must be done so everyone within the team is always at the same level.

The main idea is to understand the power of teamworking in delivering an outstanding service. Going above and beyond is a team effort and this is why the power of people is crucial. The more people in your team will understand the importance of working as a team in order to make it happen and do their best to be real team players, the more will you be able to deliver an outstanding service as a team. Obviously, things may not go the way you want when it comes to teamworking. Indeed, as explained above, consistency is crucial in order to deliver a service of quality, and there is only one thing that will make this consistency hold in the long term: your people. The power of people is so important in hospitality that if you don’t have team members with enough commitment, dedication and professionalism to deliver a service of quality to your clients, it will never reach the level you want to reach. So what to do in case you don’t have the people committed enough to do so? Well, it is a very long question to answer and the answer will include a lot of different aspects such as Leadership, management, team empowerment and recognition or the importance of having the right value (many of my other articles can give you good keys in order to do so as a manager). However, the more the people follow and understand the reasons and meaning behind a service of quality, the more they will be willing to do so. And this is what I am trying to do with this article.

Problem solving

Something else that you must definitely take the time to do in order to maintain a high quality of customer service is to be able to effectively solve problems. Even in places famous for their quality of service, you will face problems or negative feedback from your guest. It is indeed human nature to make mistakes and business nature to have problems as no place or employee is perfect.

This is where it is important to understand the real definition of “perfection”. As I often say, being perfect is first of all to know that you are not. A negative feedback may indeed be a positive thing as long as you have the mindset to do better from it and to analyse the problems it may reveal that you need to improve on. This is actually one of the aspects that describes the best quality: to know that you may never reach it entirely or permanently but always work hard on improving in order to be as close as you can to the highest level. As I always say in my working place, what describes an establishment as “5-star” is not the fact that they never have problems and complaints, but the fact to learn and improve from it.

Only by seeing the positive out of negative situations, only by seeing problems as an opportunity of improvement and as entirely part of your job, only by seeing mistakes as an opportunity to grow will you be able to exceed in customer service. Do not walk next to problems saying “I will do it later when I have time”, even small ones. Remember that 1 you may never find time and it may never a good moment to solve the problem and 2 it may impact on a constant basis your quality of service. In Hospitality, we have a tendency of solving problems only when they are bigger and very rarely trying to catch and solve these problems beforehand when they are smaller. Go to the source and solve the problem when it is still at that stage rather that solving it when it is already at the stage of being a bad consequence. For instance, if you see that the wine fridge is very messy and not properly tidied, do not wait to have a client complaining about it as he/she is waiting for the wine she/he ordered before deciding to tidy it up. In fact, problem-solving should also be seen as anticipating on things rather than simply solving issues.

Finally, do not let yourself be influenced by negative people. As the saying says: «Negative people have a problem to every solution». Some negative people will tend to see any problem as “negative” and as “stopping them to do their job” instead of seeing them as an opportunity (but in the meantime will never take time to try to solve them and in the worst case may even be one of the cause). It is, therefore, crucial to spread the correct mindset when it comes to problem-solving: a problem is nothing else than a sign giving you an opportunity to do better. Do your best also to make people understand that the problem may not be the problem itself but their reaction towards the problem. For instance, situations where problems are solved too late or people are reacting too badly when a problem occurs making the situation even worse. A boat is always surrounded by water and only when there is a hole in it, it may start to think. It is the same with work: it is normal to be having problems around you but your reaction is what will make the difference. Do your best as an individual to try to change people's mindset by inspiring them and leading by example so that one day they may be able to exceed in problem-solving and therefore in customer service.

Keep innovating

In order to be different than the competition as a company, it is also essential to keep implementing new ideas in order to always innovate and differentiate yourself from the competition. Therefore, a part of delivering an outstanding service is also to make sure that you are constantly trying to implement new concepts and ideas. Doing so will definitely be a real asset to 1 keep surprising your regular guests and keep them loyal but also to 2 keep attracting new ones. Today's society has changed a lot comparing to 20 years ago and nowadays we have a clientele more and more demanding with higher expectations with also an easier access to information. This clientele is not simply expecting the service to be outstanding anymore but also to be "wowed" with unique and new concepts that will make their experience different. Do not only things of things “you have to do” in order to make your clients happy but also on things “you can bring up or change” in order to exceed their expectations. People love originality and this will definitely have a huge impact on both their expectations and satisfactions. And the good thing with originality, is that it can have so many different forms, either the most basic or the most unexpected.

Even if bringing new ideas is a real asset to a service of quality, it doesn't mean that every establishment should do so. What if actually the idea were to stick to the same standards you have since decades? Will it not differentiate you from others? If you take the example of restaurants for instance, many old restaurants haven't changed anything in decades and kept the same atmosphere, environment and way of serving. The Paul Bocuse restaurant in Lyon may be a great example. In this case, the whole idea of keeping the same traditions and maintain the same quality throughout all these years with "one way of doing" is actually making these places unique. Things have moved so quickly over the past 20-30 years than keeping the same traditions and maintain a way of serving can actually be seen as an innovation itself.

Work with passion

Finally, something really important that you need to have within a team in order to reach quality, is to have passionate people. Indeed, passionate people will be a real asset to a business as they will work with their heart and because they like what they are doing, they will naturally give more of themselves to please their clients. You should actually follow the idea that being passionate is not even an additional value but one of the main conditions in order to really exceed in customer service. Customer service is sometimes too difficult and challenging to not like what you do. Many people tend to start not liking their job after working for a certain time and so many questions can be asked: Is it the job itself? Did they really liked hospitality/customer service in the first place? Or the bad sides of the job made them not like it anymore? Stopping on the third question, sometimes hospitality can be very challenging and clients can be so difficult that you can tend to lose this passion and will to continue in this industry. Though it is totally understandable, if you really want to continue to exceed and grow in this industry, you need to remember why you choose it at the first place and see the glass half fool. It can be the challenge that you like, the fact that you always have to push yourself to do your best and exceed constantly, the satisfaction you have in pleasing your clients or the knowledge you are proud to display to each of your clients. Do not let the negative things bring you down and remember that in the end you are doing a job that many people couldn’t do and you are the one making so many clients happy every day.

Always remember, the passion you will have in serving people can be seen in a way as "the soul" of the service. By being passionate, you will naturally do your best to go above and beyond your clientele’s expectations. By being passionate, you will put in practice all what your company or team has worked hard to put in place in order to deliver a service of quality. Having a passionate staff is a bit like the “cherry on the cake”. If you don't have it, your cake would never be complete and all what you would have done to deliver an outstanding service will always be missing something. Always remember that as a company, is important to recruit, take care and empower these people so they can exceed in what they love doing.


Pierre Bauzee, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

"Pierre Bauzee is a professional trainer, coach and consultant for the industry of Hospitality. After working for more than 10 years in this wonderful industry, Pierre decided to realise a dream: dedicate his life to train and support people by starting his Training and Consultancy company called Learn&Succeed Hospitality Training.

Learn&Succeed provides powerful Training courses covering crucial topics for people's development and success such as Leadership, Management, Training and development, customer service, personal improvement or Teamwork and interpersonal skills.

With certified and authentic courses entirely made by himself, he strongly believes that by training the right people with the right training, he can provide all the keys to success in order for them to grow, learn and succeed. He is also very proud and committed to taking part in people's development or in the success of their company by providing coaching and consulting services.

His goal: to make a positive impact on people and businesses in an industry full of opportunities."



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