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Key Customer Service Concepts

In “Raising the Bar Isn’t Easy” in the November 2012 issue of School Nutrition, Gabriela Pacheco, RD, LD, SNS, shared details about the importance of training front-line staff on the new meal pattern regulation. As you educate your staff on specific guidance regarding the new regulation, however, don’t overlook the value of regular, reinforced customer service training. The following tips will keep you and your staff focused on providing quality both in front of and behind the line.

In today’s fast-paced world, where staff turnover is high and job training is sometimes non-existent, it’s not surprising that good customer service is hard to come by. However, it should be a vital aspect of your operation, because when your customers are happy (kids, teachers, parents, community members), then everyone is happy, and you’ll likely earn their repeat business. Therefore, putting extra effort into this area is certain to bring about benefits you may have never thought of. Here are a few general tips for providing good customer service.

  1. Get to know your customers. Not just the kids—the teachers, parents, community members, etc. Be welcoming, positive and friendly and smile (even if you’re having a bad day). Do your best to learn people’s names. Referring to someone by name makes them feel good and lets them know they are valued.
  2. Be helpful and courteous. In fact, go out of your way to do so. It shows your customers it’s not just a job for you, it’s your passion—and you want them to have the best possible experience in your cafeteria every school day.
  3. Be knowledgeable. Master the responsibilities and requirements of your school nutrition position and learn as much as possible about the operation as a whole. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and/or ask for help when you need it. [Managers/Directors: Provide every member of your staff with appropriate information and training so they are empowered to make a difference and never have to say, “I don’t know.”]
  4. Listen. Whether your customers have a question, problem, suggestion or complaint, show them you care by listening thoroughly and providing appropriate responses to either help or solve the issue.
  5. Go the extra mile. We have the opportunity every day to make a difference. Make it both your mantra and your mission to go the extra mile in all your efforts within your school nutrition operation. Remember, even little things can make a big difference in providing top-notch service.

By applying these tips, your school nutrition operation will not only be known for the healthy and delicious meals you serve, but for its excellent customer service, too!