While in San Francisco on our long overdue honeymoon I learned a valuable lesson from our waiter at the Farallon restaurant. While the food was amazing, his confidence and pride in their product was the thing that intrigued me.

People Expect Great Service

I expect great service anywhere I go, probably because its something I strive for in my vocation. But sometimes people surprise me and most of the time its a good surprise.

One of the hardest customer service jobs I can imagine is serving at a restaurant. I know I couldn’t do it, having to be courteous every second of every diners meal, remembering every detail of their order, and finding the perfect balance of when to check up on a table and leave it alone.

Our server was amazing, his timing, menu advice, and interest in our wellbeing set him apart. But the thing I really came away with?

Confidence and Pride

He had complete confidence, and pride, in the food that they serve. He was glowing with pride when giving recommendations, and absolutely confident that their best was better than anything we could eat anywhere else.

Not once did he walk up to our table when we were in the middle of a bite, and when he did stop by it wasn’t to ask “is everything ok?” but rather to ask “so what did you think?”

Asking the wrong question

I never realized until then that asking someone “is everything ok?” while they are consuming your product, is just about the worst thing you could ask. Why?

First it prompts a yes or no response, so in that moment they have to decide whether they like or dislike it more. Why give them a chance to form an opinion based on a 50/50 split?

Second it conjures this notion that you don’t have supreme confidence in the product you are selling, that there is the possibility you don’t think its good enough.

Asking the right question at the right time

Instead we should be interacting with our customers in a way that shows we are confident in what we are selling and we take pride in the quality of the product.

When the waiter asked me “so what do you think?” he was requiring me to think about the tastes, the smells, the pairings of ingredients, and I immediately had good thoughts and told him so. In addition he timed his question so well that it came at a moment where I could stop and think and answer clearly. My mouth wasn’t full and I wasn’t distracted by taking a sip of my wine.

He listened to my answers and agreed and then would often say, “if you thought that was great, wait and see what I’m bringing you next.” It never failed either, each new course was even better than the previous.

Making this work in any business

This post is a call to action for us to think before we interact with our customers. How can we convey our confidence and pride in our product and how can we better time our questions to the customer so that they can give us valuable feedback and we can bring them the “next course” with the maximum effect.