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The Secret to Customer Satisfaction

By William ďBilly-OĒ Orilio, MHS, January 2008

Do your customers love you?

Surveys show that more customers than ever are fed up with bad service. So now itís time to let our servers in on the secret of giving dramatically visible customer service. Any time Iíve ever had an experience that was outstanding, I could tell that the server knew the secret. It doesnít apply only to servers, but to anybody in the service industry. It allows employees to create a personalized experience for their guests, so that they leave bigger tips, come back to your property, and request additional services. 

According to the University of Michiganís 2007 American Customer Satisfaction Index, overall customer satisfaction remains flat over the past year. In some industries, such as the hospitality industry--specifically hotels and restaurants--it got worse. 

In the 2005 National Customer Rage Study, the most recent available 70% of respondents who had a problem reported feeling this fevered emotion at least once during a recent transaction, up from 68% in the 2003 poll. As for those unpleasant interactions, each victim had, on average, four exchanges with the offending company to resolve the problem, and 15% of the ticked-off customers entertained fantasies of revenge. They said theyíd like to repeatedly pester the business and cost them time and money as payback. 

With this data in mind, itís not hard to see, even though weíre in the hospitality industry, that companies are routinely out of touch with how angry their customers are. Thatís a sad state of affairs.

Now for the secret.

The only true way to enhance any guest relationship is through rapport. Rapport is the ability to enter someone elseís world, to make him or her feel like you understand them, and that you have a strong common bond. 

If itís true that almost everything we become and accomplish in life is with and through other people, then the ability to create rapport is the most important skill anyone can learn. When your team members learn this skill and are able to create rapport, it helps turn them from robots into human beings in the eyes of your guests. The guest sees them as an equal, and will often ask them questions about their personal life. They will ask their name and remember it. 

The secret to giving better service consistently is to create a personal connection with your guests. In order to do that, you have to make human contact. There are two primary ways to develop rapport-building skills: observation and flexibility.

People like people who are like themselves. It makes them feel comfortable and puts them at ease. The first key to establishing this comfort level is to pay attention to things about the other person, about the guest. How they carry themselves, their posture, how fast they speak, the tone or volume of their voice, what gestures they use, how fast they breathe, and any other observable mannerisms or behaviors. Once youíve done this, then you have to mirror the guestís actions. 

In addition to observation, there is the skill of flexibility. Flexibility means customizing your style to match the other personís style. Flexibility is actually the act of mirroring a personís actions. Almost anything you notice about another person can be mirrored. This is the way to establish an immediate bond with someone you meet. Watch someone you know that is a great communicator and youíll see that they do this all the time. 

The function of our service industry is to cultivate, facilitate and accumulate sales. Once your team members have learned how to create and build rapport it will be a lot easier, for them and for you. The first 30 seconds of an interaction sets the tone for the entire experience. The most important first step for anyone is to create a bond of trust and credibility. Remember, people like people who are like themselves. The pure essence of rapport is commonality. 

When rapport is consistently established, your guests will realize that weíre all on the same team. They will know that we can work together to solve any issue or to prevent any problems. Nothing affects a guest more than knowing youíre on the same side instead of the opposition. 

In our business, it is possible for both sides to win. Itís called Building Rapport. It really works. 

Mr. Orilio is the CEO of Orilio & Associates, Inc., a Hospitality Consulting firm that provides services and expertise to hotels, casinos, restaurants, and other customer service businesses. His experience in the Hospitality and Gaming industries spans 30 years and over 60,000 hours of documented on-site observations. He taught Restaurant and Hotel Management at San Diego Mesa College for 20 years and Casino Management at San Diego State University for the past four years. 


William ďBilly-OĒ Orilio

Also See: Defining Customer Service: the Customerís Perception is our Reality / William Orilio, MHS / September 2004
Every Time You Turn Around in a Casino These Days, Something Is Missing with Regards to Service! The 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail Is Long Gone But the Need for Value and Superior Customer Service Remains / William Orilio / January 2007

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