customer service

The Big Question: How’s Business Going

I make it a point to pose the following question to an unsuspecting waiter, hostess, cook, or ‘owner-looking’ person at any business:

How’s business going?

The question freezes most in their tracks.  I guess they are so accustomed to hearing complaints and groans from customers that a genuine question is startling.  This is a departure from the standard fare: “The weather sure is warm today.”


Typical responses:

“Oh, fine. I guess.”

“We’ve been fairly steady. I think it’ll pick up later.”

“It’s a little slow now, but I am hopeful.”

“Great. We’ve been steady all day.”

“Oh, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the manager.”

If you’re a manager, owner of an establishment, what’s your coaching to employees about how to answer this question?

Should you lie and say “everything’s rosy” all the time?

Should you give your honest assessment?

Should you gently smile and say the first thing that comes to mind?

I believe an employee should be honest, but sprinkle in some optimism.

For example, if the first person to walk into your establishment for the day asks the question: “How’s business?”

Don’t respond: “It’s been very slow. You are the first person to visit us today.”

Try: “We expect great things today; we have some great specials available on some of our most popular products. What brought you in our store today?”

Immediately, the employee has engaged with the customer and starts to understand his needs while introducing some of the fantastic offers available. This friendly tone won’t seem fake or pushy. The customer ‘should’ see this as warm, genuine conversation from someone who has his best interests at heart. In a world that’s sometimes too cynical and sarcastic, you’ll stand out with a fresh dose of optimism and enthusiasm.

(Originally published on March 14th, 2012)

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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