There is an article in the New York Times today about the restaurant industry and how horribly it is struggling during these economic hard times. This is not a new topic of discussion. I’ve probably read a half dozen other articles about the same topic, whether the journalist is taking the angle of all the bargain meals to be had or they are reporting about the restaurants disappearing one by one. This article is different because peppered throughout the article is commentary about how now the waitstaff at some of the highest end NYC restaurants are all of a sudden happy to see you. Gone (apparently) is the snobbish, sometimes rude reception a diner might get on any given night or over the phone when attempting to make a reservation. One restaurant owner of two failed restaurants advised his colleagues, “You need to hug your customers.”
I’m assuming most of these places that were wildly successful despite their less than pleasant attitudes toward their diners are now scrambling to figure out just what “nice” even means. Can you retrain your staff to be pleasant and helpful? What if these establishments had been “hugging” their customers from the very beginning? At this point, I imagine that customers will continue to go to these restaurants, especially if they are offering deals; but, the customers are not invested, just bargain seeking.
What if you have a store, a restaurant, a department, a library full of pleasant and helpful staff winning the customer’s heart over and over and over again no matter what the economic climate. Won’t those customers be more invested in the health of your organization? Not just looking for a fire sale? In the library world, these questions need to be asked as government leaders turn to us to cut budgets and tighten belts. Are our customers invested enough to fight for us?