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Customer service is still about training your talent, not touting your new toys

Customer service is still about training your talent, not touting your new toys

As a 29-year-old man, technological advances in computing are normal, everyday things for me. While I was growing up, the world around me exploded with Macs, PCs, ATMs, cell phones and various video game systems. I have rejoiced in their arrival and displayed little patience for those older than me who long for the good old days of pure human interaction.

Restaurant technology has been no different. I welcome the hand-held devices designed to zip orders from a server’s fingertips to ticket machines in a busy kitchen. Reducing the chances for mix-ups with digital aids seems like sound business practice to me. Servers who shun writing instruments are a dicey proposition, especially when they are green or poorly trained or, to put it politely, unhappily engaged in the service profession.

But these gadgets are only as good as the personnel using them. Case in point: A few weeks ago, my father and I visited Yankee Stadium and sat in prime box seats as guests of a family friend. I had heard tales from others who regularly sit in field boxes that stadium staffers, equipped with handheld units, take orders from a pretty sizable menu, saving you from fighting off plebian hordes at the indoor concession stands.

I dreamed of my whims being fulfilled with cold beer and hot dogs almost immediately after I communicated my desire, with little to no physical effort—on my part, anyway. I envisioned ice cream and peanuts and popcorn appearing in my lap, summoned in response to a few keystrokes on a sleek, handheld computer.

Unfortunately, the person covering our section seemed less than inclined to devote some face time to her customers. For most of the hour before game time, I saw her lounging a few seats away or chatting with ushers in the tunnel, as fans holding cash and craning their necks searched for someone to take their orders.

My father and I had to get up from our seats—the horror!—and walk to an open concession stand to obtain a few dogs and brews. Not the end of the world, but rather disappointing, considering my stated longings for Egyptian pharaoh-style treatment.

Some time passed and the server did manage to saunter over to our seats, after a number of people complained to higher-ups. My belly signaled the need for a second lunch. With my order for a pulled pork sandwich, chips and a beer placed—hey, I was hungry—the credit card swiped and a 10-minute period passed, I was happily munching away and mulling over my obsession with technology.

I came to the conclusion that people skills still matter just as much as computer skills. If you run a foodservice business and you find yourself enamored of all the bells and whistles and iWaiters that 2008 has brought us, please remember that it’s the faces, smiles and training of your staff that make the difference.

TAGS: Technology
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