I still clearly remember my first days as a waitress. I’d mostly be watching the door in apprehension, wondering when my next table would be walking in. Every time I heard footsteps, my heart would start beating a little faster. What was I going to say to these people? Would they be friendly? What would they think of me?
Thankfully, the first restaurant I worked at was a very small one. Despite this, I was overwhelmed by the number of dishes on the menu – never mind the endless list of spirits, beers and wines I’d never heard of. This played a big role in my fear of striking up a conversation with my tables. Most of the time, I was too busy chanting their order in my head, anyway. If I could just sort of remember how their order sounded, the kitchen or bar staff would recognise what it was.
Fast forward two years and I was working at a restaurant ten times the size of the first one, with a calibre of guests ten times as important. By then, a day’s work involved way more than it previously had. However, I was coping better at this new place. I was even partaking in casual conversations with my tables instead of avoiding them at all costs.
Today, as a customer service training facilitator, I often come across staff who have been working in the hospitality industry significantly longer than I. To my surprise, their biggest struggle remains a lack in confidence. Especially when it comes to dealing with ‘difficult’ customers. It seems that people have this unvalidated notion that others are born into confidence. Based on my own experience, I know for a fact that this isn’t true.
Looking back, I know that my confidence has exponentially grown. Not because I had been given a confidence gene, but because I had worked on growing the aspects within my control. I began understanding my menus. I started recognising and learning about different personality types. I got to know all the different alcoholic beverages. The list goes on and on.
Although I never thought I would be confident enough to stand in front of a table of three, I now stand up in front of crowds and merely feel a nervous excitement. I’ve since learned that the better equipped we are, the more confident we not only feel, but appear to the people around us. If we know what we’re talking about, why should we be nervous about dealing with so-called difficult customers?
It’s for this reason that I believe in the power of customer service training. If your company invests in equipping its employees with the knowledge to foster confidence, the rewards will be felt. Not only by your customers, but by your employees themselves.
I strongly believe that confidence is gained by implementing behaviour changes and repeating them over and over until they become a part of your routine.
Confidence is not a gift. It’s a skill that can be learnt.