I absolutely love food. It is truly one of my great passions. For a long time when I was younger I wanted to become a chef, which lead to me working as a server, a line cook and a manager before I became a technology professional. A few nights ago I was sitting in my home watching an episode of Restaurant Stakeout. It’s one of my favorite TV shows and even though I have seen the show many times, something in this episode made me sit up and pay attention to the uncanny parallels between our world and the food service industry. The world of A/V professionals is usually considered to be a part of the technology sector but we are actually a part of the hospitality business as well. This may not be obvious so grab a seat and get comfortable. I’ll be your server today and show you with these three tasty appetizers what some of those parallels are.
Good training is absolutely critical to executing at 110% with every client. Imagine you’re out to dinner with your friends at the hottest new restaurant in town. Though you haven’t had it before you’ve heard that this place has amazing flank steak. The waiter asks you how you would like that cooked and you say “well done” while the waiter just says “OK” and puts your order in with the kitchen. The only problem is that flank steak is a different kind of steak that is best served medium well at most or it’s going to taste leathery and overly chewy. This experience is going leave a bad taste in the customers mouth and could have been prevented if the waiter had educated their guest. The problem here is that the waiter didn’t know, which is the restaurant managers fault.
Customers are three times more likely to talk about a bad experience than a good one and in this situation the waiter should have helped their guest to find the memorable dining experience they were seeking. Our roles as A/V professionals aren’t any different. Our clients trust us to be experts and know all of the subtleties of our trade. For A/V business owners execution is key to success and this means understanding that your front line people have to be sharp. Remember, the best staff are well trained staff and your company is only as good as the least educated and trained member of it’s team, so make sure you invest time, energy and money into keeping your installers, technicians and customer assistance people well trained and well informed….
Tonight’s Our Anniversary
Imagine that you’re out on the town on a Friday night looking for a special way to celebrate your love for your partner. You go to a restaurant that is supposed to have great food and amazing drink specials. When you arrive it’s particularly busy and once you get a table (after waiting 25 minutes) things start to go downhill. Your waiter isn’t around when you need him, he put your order in wrong completely ignoring your request for the chicken parmigiana to be unbreaded, and he didn’t even offer you a complimentary drink for your anniversary or comp your check for messing up your order. You feel like your special night was ruined and you won’t be coming back again or recommending this place to your friends and family.
If you approach A/V with an understanding that we are really hospitality driven, since our product is a luxury in many instances, you quickly see how this restaurant experience isn’t really any different from what we do on a daily basis. Whether you’re a commercial or residential company your clients are really looking for someone to make them feel special just as a good restaurant would. They want to feel as if you really care about them. Successful restaurateurs understand and help their people to understand that they are serving love on a plate. Why should a luxury product like A/V be any different? Remember that simple things make a big difference for your clients. Accommodate special requests, focus on the guest experience. Blow your customers away and you’ll not only make them feel obligated to come back to your company again and again, but you’ll also make them want to refer people to you.
Who’s In Charge?
Restaurant owners often mistakenly think that their staff performs up to their expectations when they aren’t around . Often this isn’t true but it’s not because people don’t want to work hard. In fact it’s usually the opposite and has more to do with absentee owners and managers who don’t practice solid leadership skills.
Imagine that you’re the manager of a busy restaurant but your often hiding away back in the office. It’s likely that without constant communication and feedback from you that your people wouldn’t meet your expectations of them. Worse yet you won’t understand what they need from you to succeed.
The world of A/V isn’t any different. Project managers need to be present and remember to lead their people. Remember they not only need to be directed they WANT you to do so, and when you do you help your bottom line and your people to stay happy.