Friday, May 29, 2009

Effective Networking: It's in YOUR hands!

Effective Networking, whether for business or social purposes is not that easy a task as we might think. It requires quite a bit of work from YOUR part, and it happens in 3 stages: Before, During and After.

If you are about to attend a Networking event that will bring together, let's say, a multitude of business people who conduct business in your area, consider the following:

  • Find out who will probably be attending the event. Ask around. Ask the place (a restaurant?) or the Event organizers.
  • If someone interesting is expected to attend, and you are planning on meeting them, do your homework on them. Read about what they do, and learn about their latest ventures.
  • Make sure you understand the attire suggested, and choose something comfortable, professional, neutral, clean and wrinkle-free.
  • Load up on business cards and actually, grab a few from your close business partners/friends to take with you as well. You never know what you'll end up talking about, and maybe someone will ask you if you know any great Doctor, Doggie Daycare, Social Media Expert you trust..and you'll be glad to provide a reference!

  • Don't be shy. If you're too shy to talk to anybody new, don't even go. So, with this said, work on your shyness, and be professionally spontaneous. If you don't know what to say, ask questions! People love talking about what they do, what they like, what they want!
  • DON'T eat or drink too much. You're not there for the food and drinks.
  • If you do drink, don't hold it in your right hand. Who wants to shake a cold, wet hand anyway?
  • Same thing with food: Don't pick your finger food, then quickly eat it, wipe your hand off on your suit jacket and extend your hand for a handshake trying to let out a "Nice to meet you!" while still chewing...Uff!
  • Collect business cards and make a mental picture of ALL of them connected to each person. You will need them later!
  • Hand out business cards as well, and while doing so, add information about your business, location, new product/service...something that will create a mental connection of you, your business and the business card to the person you're giving the card to.
  • Don't stay in one spot. Work the room. Walk around, and look for people who are doing the same thing. Don't jump into a rather closed circle of people already in the middle of a conversation. Create your own circle and bring in people whom you've just met! Introduce them, properly, which will also help you retain their name and business info!

  • Less than 48h after the event, send out any information you had promised people you would provide them with (an article on wardrobe faux-pas? A great appetizer recipe? Your event list for the Fall?)
  • In the same time frame, contact, via e-mail or blog postings (if applicable) how much you enjoyed meeting them and chatting about "abc" with them. Offer your services, your help and hope for future contact. Keep it simple and professional.
  • Don't be alarmed if the person NEVER answers back. I know, that's just not only rude, but a pitty. It shows how THEY don't take their networking seriously. Don't cry over it. Move on to those who care.
  • Look for additional networking events organized by the same group and different one, and mark them down in your calendar, making plans to attend. Don't attend an event if it conflicts with your own work/presentation/travel plans. Remember, you still have to work, or maybe even, your own business to run.
  • Keep a networking event BOOK or LOG! Yes! Write down the date, event name, time, people you've met, follow-ups, relationships built. Keep growing it!

Good luck!
I look forward to reading about your Networking Tips!

Ok, but don't forget to recognize what's GOOD as well!

So far, according to the poll, it seems most people voice their bad service experience directly to management, and/or write a nasty letter (can I assume it would be a nasty letter?) to the owners or corporate office.

Most of us are not looking for monetary compensation, like getting our money back or receiving a free meal on the next visit, but so many times we get something out of it anyways without even asking for it. Our intent, often, is just for someone to listen to what we have to say and rectify the situation, hopefully not letting it happen again!

My husband and I received full compensation for our whole, entire meal (from Appetizer to Dessert and coffee) many, many years ago at McCormick & Schmick's. We received a free sushi roll from our neighborhood Chinese/Japanese Restaurant while ordering for home delivery after our last home delivery had arrived with fewer items than what we had ordered. We also received a "15% off on every visit" from a Barbecue Restaurant, however, have ever since experienced continuous unsatisfactory service that we now simply don't go there anymore that often (even though we have the discount card!).

Now, you might think "these guys eat out a lot, my goodness!" or "they must be heavy complainers!". A little bit of both is true. But our focus is actually on something else:

My husband and I always, and I repeat, always point out good service to our server and to management. We make it a point to express how excellent service was and why it was so good. Both of us, having worked in the hospitality industry, know how important it is for employees and management to recognize top service and success. We believe in how powerful this is.

We believe that while complaining about what's wrong will (hopefully) trigger some changes for the best, pointing out what's RIGHT has an amazing impact on employee morale and on how WE feel. Our contribution of verbally expressing our gratitude for good service goes a long way.

How about shifting our thoughts now to observing and recognizing good service? Maybe we can also turn the nasty letters into amazing compliment letters. To receive a verbal or written compliment from a guest/client, is one of the strongest motivators one can experience at work, positively affecting one's attitude towards people and one's job.

I will write more and more about service, service etiquette and handling service issues, however, this post was intended to remind us all that it IS important to recognize good service. It IS important to let servers and managers know how great service was. Believe wen I say that it DOES make a difference!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NO random Restaurant Talk!..

One of my areas of concentration lies in customer service training. This comprises less of the technical training to do a job as a server, bartender, as a front-desk agent, PBX (phones) agent, concierge, sales person or as a reservations agent, and more of the people skills, communication skills, polished good manners and follow-up skills. These "soft skills" complement the technical training given by supervisors, managers or corporate trainers. I come in to polish it up a bit.

Given the nature of one of my concentrations, I always find myself meticulously observing, silent-commenting and judging service. I mostly do so at hotels and restaurants, because of my previous work experience and industry knowledge and passion for hospitality.

I stopped expecting excellent service (so sad, I know), because that would put me on the streets as a trainer and consultant. No, honestly, I haven't experienced flawless service in a casual dining establishment in a long, long time.

I expect A+ service in fine dining establishments, no questions asked. A few years ago, my husband and I celebrated our Anniversary at Manuel's on the 28th on Downtown's Orange Avenue. The contemporary cuisine was absolutely, flawlessly served by our very knowledgeable, very well trained server. The whole team was in sync with their guests, amazingly anticipating our needs over and over again, only stopping by our table when necessary, knowing how to pause, not interrupting our table conversation. Well, a few years later, I must say I just remembered, my husband and I dined at Antonio's on Sand Lake Road by Dr. Philip's (also Orlando). Service was a delight. Although I would not consider it a fine dining establishment, white linen cloths, serving from the left, waiting until both of us were done to clear our plates from the right, and using a bread crumber before serving our dessert was mirroring the service we received this past Valentine's Day at The Vineyard Grill at the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes.

Sadly, as I was saying, I don't recall the last time I received excellent service in a casual dining establishment. There is always something to mess it up, I must say.
The other day, my parents and I were about to order lunch in one of Downtown's newest restaurants (very nice place, discriminating decor, interesting, tasty menu items). When asked how the chicken was, the waiter's facial expression (and I am not joking!), was a mix of skepticism with a slight disgust. To finalize his answer he said: "It takes so long to cook, and then when you get're just better off having much better chicken at KFC or so!". Enough said.
At a nice Steakhouse known for having some of the best steaks in the State, while clearing up the dishes from the table, piling them up as much as possible on one of those oval trays, my stepdaughter was nicely splashed with meat sauce. It didn't burn her, but soiled her shirt and pants. A not empathetic "sorry" was delivered so low you could hardly hear it. One might say it was just an accident. perhaps. But accidents can be prevented, and the way he was clearing up the table was not indicative of any preventive measures.
One of my all-time favorites is a very friendly, yet clueless waitress letting us know that "the bread we have now is so hard, that I'll have to put some fresh dough in the oven for you!" Thank you for sharing. We don't want to, we don't need to know about these situations in the back of the house.

A guy I worked with a few years ago, when answering a very upset guest's question why the elevator was still out of order, sarcastically responded "Sir, we also have stairs!"...The guest was staying on the 17th floor...(now, that was at a hotel, not at a restaurant, but you know what I'm talking about. Service is service)

In my opinion, service has become way too casual. The fine, little respectful attitudes are somehow lost in time. We are so often rushed through lunch/dinner, many waiters making a complete wrong assumption that we're in a hurry just because it's lunch time. We are judged by our waitstaff the minute we sit down, I get that, ok, and sometimes you see the pathetic transition of horrible service to nicer and careful service once you tell them you are taking a NY Strip home to your husband and 2 desserts will be to-go as well. Now, I must say, diners (people!) have also been slacking in their manners. Uff, that will be a whole other post, but if you're trying to serve someone who's constantly on the cellphone, loud and obnoxious, disturbing other guests and barely paying attention to you, server, I understand that frustration very well also.

There are two sides to everything, right?
(The restaurants mentioned above are linked to their web sites!)