How Strategic Upselling Can Increase Your Bottom Line

How Strategic Upselling Can Increase Your Bottom Line

Upselling in restaurants can be a touchy topic, teasing operators with increased sales and profits, but presenting potential perils to the customer experience. No one likes to be given the hard-sell when they're just out to enjoy a good meal, and it won’t be effective if the service team doesn’t approach it correctly.  When done correctly, upselling can be a welcome way for servers to engage with guests and meet their needs – while still increasing the bottom line.  

Approach upselling with your guest's experience and ultimate satisfaction in mind first, and you'll use the technique successfully to further educate your guests on your restaurant, it’s menu, to take them on a tour of new and interesting items, and ultimately enhance their experience as your guest. If your mission is simply to squeeze as much money out of them as possible, your servers' attempts at upselling will most likely come across as insincere and pushy and you’ll end up wondering why it didn’t work.

Here’s what works: an educated, enthusiastic service team, a team that asks questions and listens to guests, and can then be ready to suggest something they will enjoy and maybe even be pleasantly surprised with.  And here’s a secret: it’s ok not to suggest anything as well.  If your mission is to provide the best experience for your guests, and they indicate to the server they do not want anything additional, forcing a suggestion will detract from the experience, and also at the critical end-of-visit time with you, possibly causing that to be among the bigger things they recall about their experience.  

Here’s what doesn’t work: canned and tired phrases servers are forced to recite; quotas imposed upon servers; lack of committed training and education of servers; asking only if they “saved room for dessert”; insincerity, etc.  Your service team should view themselves, and be empowered as, Experience Guides or Dining Consultants for your guests, genuinely interested in (and properly motivated to) assuring they thoroughly enjoy their experience with you. 


Guide guests through the menu

One of the biggest mistakes a server can make is to play the role of order-taker rather than consultant or experience guide.  A good server should be trained and able to ask and answer questions about each guests likes and desires, explain the menu, and then offer suggestions tailored to each guest's preferences.  If a server answers "Oh, everything here is great!" when a guest asks for recommendations, they have not only lost a chance to make a sale – they have undermined the guest's trust in their knowledge of the menu.  An alternative: when a guest asks “what would you recommend”, ask “what type of (items) do you usually like?”, then listen and make appropriate suggestions. 


Implementing an upselling program

Once your staff is trained and thorough educated on the menu, how can you make sure they guide your guests appropriately to identify potential for upselling?  Some use  contests to reward the most successful (be careful how you define ‘success’ with such programs!).  We counsel clients to consider it another process and a piece of the puzzle: the results should follow successful training, education, and then actions by servers. 

But sales numbers only tell one side of the story, and there can sometimes be a disconnect between the expectations you set, and the actual experience of your guests. An upselling program should never put a sale above the guests’ needs – servers should be able to read their tables, and back off when it's clear the guest isn't interested in being sold to.

To gauge how the customer experiences your servers' attempts to upsell, mystery shopping services can be effectively utilized. The mystery shoppers will be educated on your specific program, what servers should and should not do, and then they will visit your restaurants, go through the experience, and report back, in high detail, about what was done and said.  Hidden video can even be used, and then developed into a “best practices” program to help continuously educate your staff on maximizing opportunities while also enhancing the guest’s experience. 

When in doubt, re-read rule one

“Seth Godin is someone whom we respect, especially his views on customers and taking care of them.  His blog piece below is yet another example of how he “gets it” and is trying to help others do the same”

When in doubt, re-read rule one

Rule one has two parts: 

a. the customer is always right

b. if that's not true, it's unlikely that this person will remain your customer.

If you need to explain to a customer that he's wrong, that everyone else has no problem, that you have tons of happy customers who were able to successfully read the instructions, that he's not smart enough or persistent enough or handsome enough to be your customer, you might be right. But if you are, part b kicks in and you've lost him.

If you find yourself litigating, debating, arguing and most of all, proving your point, you've forgotten something vital: people have a choice, and they rarely choose to do business with someone who insists that they are wrong.

By all means, fire the customers who aren't worth the time and the trouble. But understand that the moment you insist the customer is wrong, you've just started the firing process.

PS here's a great way around this problem: Make sure that the instruction manual, the website and the tech support are so clear, so patient and so generous that customers don't find themselves being wrong.

Where’s My Sign?

Where’s My Sign?

I stopped into a big-box home improvement store today, and as I was parking I noticed a sign mounted to a light pole, in the closest space by their main entrance, that said “Reserved for Employee of the Month”.  I immediately looked around for the parking spot reserved for the Customer of the Month, but couldn’t find it.  The space was empty.  My first thought was: is it possible that everyone’s performance was so bad, no one “won” the spot this month?  Judging from the level of service once I went inside, that’s possible.


As a business owner, I can tell you first-hand how vitally important it is to every business to have motivated, dedicated employees to serve customers; companies that don’t pay attention to that will not survive very long.  Happy employees = happy customers.  Perhaps a parking spot does that for this company, but I really doubt it.  Do they really think employees are going to go the extra mile for customers, try to save the company money, help new teammates get up to speed, or whatever their metrics are, for a parking space?  Hopefully, there are other more meaningful rewards tied to this.


More importantly, in a B2C setting, where virtually all of this store’s customers walk past this sign every time they visit, what message does it send? I’m sure there are some who interpret it as a nice thing for this company to do for its employees.  I interpret it, along with the absence of a COM space, that customers do not come first here.    

All good companies put strong emphasis on trying to attract, hire and retain great employees, and then deliver on keeping them happy.  The better ones do that first with customers, because, stating the obvious, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have to worry too much about employee motivation.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for their Customer of the Month sign.

How Painless Problem Resolution Creates Lifelong Fans

Is quick and easy problem resolution a top priority for your company? It should be. Great customer service is a leading way to create loyalty among your customers, and when it comes to return on investment, a study by Watermark Consulting shows that it can't be beat.

After analyzing the stock portfolio performance of publicly traded companies in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking, Watermark found that the top ranked companies handily outperformed the overall market, while the bottom ranked companies trailed far behind overall.

Their conclusion? "The Customer Experience Leaders in this study are clearly enjoying the many benefits that happy, loyal customers deliver: better retention, greater wallet share, lower acquisition costs and more cost-efficient service."

We've all experienced terrible customer service when trying to return an order, contest a charge, or troubleshoot a malfunctioning product. Customers often expect it to be a hassle, which is why if you can wow them with your company's problem resolution process, you can cement their loyalty.

Is your company driving people away with these customer service problems?


Not being there for the customer

The first step to great customer service is making yourself easy to find. Having multiple forms of contact, like email, web chat, phone, and in-store customer service makes it easy for customers to choose what they're most comfortable with. You must commit to excelling at each form of communication, however, or you'll risk angry customers. Long hold times, dropped phone calls, lines for customer service that stretch nearly to the front door, emails that are never returned – each of these scenarios raises your customers' blood pressure, and all that ire will be directed at your company.

Wait times can be excruciating, but that can be ameliorated by letting customers know how long the wait will be. Use a recording on the phone to estimate time, or use an autoresponder email to let customers know when to expect an email reply.


Making it too hard to solve the problem

The last thing a customer with a problem wants is to be thrown into a labyrinthine nightmare of poor customer service. Make things easy by providing a clear path to a solution – nothing is more aggravating than not knowing whether to push 1 or 2 to get through a phone tree, or not being able to find a company's contact information on the website. Spell out exactly which steps a customer should take to get her problem solved, and she'll arrive at customer service ready to work things out, rather than being combative and annoyed.


Juggling your customer from person to person

We've all been there: you just get finished explaining the problem in detail to one representative when he transfers you to his manager – where you get to explain the problem all over again. It's infuriating to say the least. The 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer from American Express reports that 26% of customers have experienced being transferred from agent to agent without any resolution of their problem.

One solution is to empower your front lines to solve problems without having to pass customers from rep to rep. If it's necessary to transfer a customer, put systems in place to minimize the amount of re-explaining that needs done. Have the rep give a brief overview to his manager before transferring the call. The manager can then verify the details and clarify questions with the customer, rather than making her start over from scratch. This builds an amazing amount of confidence in the customer, who otherwise might feel as though she's trapped in a hamster wheel.


Not listening to customer feedback

Customer complaints are a treasure trove of information. As easy as it can be to get defensive, it's important to take customer feedback into account, and act on it. According to a study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, only 4% of unhappy customers actually bother to complain – which means you can assume that for every complaint that's filed, there are 24 unhappy customers who said nothing.

Use those complaints as an opportunity to make your customer service shine, and customers will reward you with loyalty.

IntelliShop Featured in SportsBusiness Journal

IntelliShop was recently featured in a SportsBusiness Journal syndicated study. Check out the article through this link!