The Taste of Chicago………….. Eating good too!

If heaven was a buffet with only delicious gourmet food and huge portions along with colorful people serving, that heaven would be Chicago.

During my many visits to Chicago, I have learned to never eat at a restaurant or eatery that I could eat at home.  The reason is, there are so many great places to eat.  So if I eat something I could have eaten at home……. why eat at all.  I love to experience new foods.  My eating habits and adventurist nature in regards to food is definitely thanks to my parents.  If you are not trying new foods and tasting new cultures, you are missing the boat and need to free your mind.  Try it, you may like it.  However, if you don’t like it, jump off the boat and swim to shore.

Our first night in the “Windy City”, we went to a very well-known restaurant.  My wife and I absolutely love this eatery and stop here during every visit to Chicago.  This visit however was a bit less than  average.  First off, on the way to our booth I slipped on the tile floor three times because of the grease.  Second, our booth was extremely dirty.  I remarked to my wife that we could probably eat and be satisfied if we only ate the food from underneath our table.  The bright spot in our visit was the great customer service given by the server.  He was very attentive to our needs.  When we mentioned the smorgasbord under the booth, he very quickly summoned someone to clean it up.  He also made great suggestions on appetizers.  He was very professional.  There were 8 in our party and he remembered all of our orders even though we made it very difficult as we were tired from travel and very hungry.

The next days plan was to eat good at “The Taste”.  Therefore, we made no plans to eat at any specific eatery.  We made our way to Grant Park to stuff our gullet with the food goodness of some of the most tasty, exotic, and decadent cuisine Chicagoland offers.  But guess what?  It was raining.  So after we got off the train we ducked into a restaurant to get a small appetizer.  It was just about lunch time so the restaurant was packed.  We were seated quite quickly even though we had a large party.  We were given water and menus almost immediately.  Here comes the kicker.  We sat for about 30 minutes before our waitress came to the table.  By this time the rain was pretty much over and I was dining with among others 3 women.  They were for sure ready to eat and very upset at the wait.  Of course we gathered our party and left for “The Taste”.  Maybe next time they will get a second opportunity at a first impression.

Now “The Taste” will never disappoint.  If you have never been, just look for the roasted corn on the cob (delicious).  Also, you have to get some of the Chicago Style Pizza (upside down and unbelievable).  One of my new favorites is the monster size Churro (Spanish doughnut).  The Churro was so delicious, but probably 2000 calories alone.  Totally worth it!  While we were down there we also enjoyed some of the street performers.  Style Pro Crew, a few contortionists, and one memorable girl with multiple hula hoops.  On “The Taste” main stage Rapheal Saadiq opened up for Chaka Khan.  Cool show!  Overall, “The Taste of Chicago” didn’t disappoint.  Make your reservations now for next year.

On our last day, we went out for breakfast at a well-known nationwide breakfast restaurant.  I won’t divulge their name but a hint for you, they serve pancakes (horrible hint…LOL).  Once again 8 person party and a great server.  The bright spot was that we really didn’t wait that long.  As we were waiting a server from another section came over and started a conversation with the whole table.  She was great at engaging the whole table in the conversation.  We were all having this great conversation that it felt like no time before our food came out.  These servers are working for small tips because the price range really dictates the tip.  This is a lower end restaurant price wise.  This was actually the best service we received during our trip.  This goes to show, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

So the next time you are in Chicago, go all out and have some fun.  Remember to seek out restaurants that you have never eaten in because if you can get the same food at home, maybe you should have stayed home.

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New To Me?

Recently, I was going into one of my favorite coffee shops to take care of my coffee fix and get a bite to eat.  I walk in and get a smile and greet from the Barista.  Everything is going well.  I order my normal tall drink and my favorite bagel with cheese and roast beef (DELISH!).  The Barista offers me a Grande.  I decline.  I am trying to be more conscious of what I am eating.  Yea right!  I’m eating a bagel with roast beef, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese……… not quite the breakfast of champions.  Anyhow, my drink comes up and the Barista tells me he will bring my bagel to my table.  Thanks.

I walk over to my table, power on my laptop, and connect to their wifi.  Now I am up and running and ready to work.  Two to three minutes later the Barista delivers my bagel sandwich to the table.  As he sits it on the table, I notice that it is over cooked.  The bagel was basically burnt on the outside.  Now here is the “New To Me?” part.  I knew right away that it was unsatisfactory; however, for some reason I felt like I couldn’t take it back.  Why in the world would I feel this way?  This is one of the cafe’s I frequently patronize.  Some of the Baristas know me by my first name.  I felt like I had to eat it or throw it out without saying anything to the staff.  So I tried a bite of the sandwich.  It was too hard and the roast beef was rubbery.  The whole slice of roast beef came out of the sandwich because I couldn’t cut it with my teeth.  That is it!  I put it down on the plate and decided not to eat it.  At the same time I decided to do my work and finish my coffee and leave without saying anything.  After a few minutes I told myself that before I left I would tell the Barista and ask for a refund.  Then I thought, man I’m hungry!  I want to eat something.  I can’t work well on an empty stomach.  I have got to give them the opportunity to make this right.  I am a regular customer here; therefore, I have an obligation to my relationship to this cafe to let them know about the situation and give them the opportunity to make things right.  So I go over to the counter and tell the Barista that the sandwich is burnt and I would like a replacement.  No problem he says.  He will deliver it to my table.

Now here’s the lesson.  I am a regular customer at this establishment.  I have made a relationship with some of the employees by way of regular visits.  If I am somewhat reluctant to bring this issue to the employees and give them the opportunity to satisfy me, what will happen when a new customer comes in and has a similar experience?  Will they be upset and say nothing and never return?  Will they ask for a refund and storm out?  Will they eat the burnt sandwich and tell everyone they know never go there because the employees don’t know what they are doing?

At the end of the day, we must attempt to take care of our customers the first time we have the opportunity.  Some customers won’t say a word and they will never return.  Some customers will return with an idea of the service they will receive based on previous bad service.  And then you have people who may work in the service industry and will give you a second opportunity to take care of them.  You can never please all the customers all the time, but if you take the attitude that you are going to own the service or stand behind the goods 100%, you will take pride in what you do and you will therefore make a better product or give exceptional service because that is what you want to receive.

The Early Bird Gets the Star

Here is the thing. Giving exceptional customer service is all about “Attitude”. As the customer service representative you make the choice to give exceptional customer service, or you are just going through the motions. When you make the commitment to work in customer service, you must realize to excel at your job you must treat every customer with respect first and foremost.

The “Attitude”, is one of acceptance.  First you must accept that people are not out to get you.  On some occasions, customers have been treated wrong by another associate.  In other instances, there was some miscommunication between another associate and the customer.  Maybe it was a new associate that was misinformed.  Maybe the miscommunication originated from you.  It doesn’t matter how the situation occurred.  The most important point is that now is your opportunity to defuse the situation and turn the customer service challenge into a customer experience success story.  Remember, the majority of people do not wake up in the morning looking to push your buttons.  However, sometimes when you are serving customers, they will push your buttons and test your patience.  This is where the “Attitude” of acceptance comes into play.  At this point you must accept that the customer has an issue with a prior experience or their current experience.  When your attitude is correct you will be able to stay calm even in very stressful situations.  You must get the customer to explain the problem in a manner that you can understand.  After you fully understand the situation, you want to empathize with the customer and confirm there is an understanding between you and the customer.  Next, you will give the customer the option to tell you what they would like to be done differently to resolve the conflict.  At this point a great deal of customers will ask for something totally reasonable.  For these customers I will also give them a little bonus “cherry on top”.  This will ensure they are happy and will remember where to go if they have issues in the future.  On some occasions,  you will get a customer that wants you to break the bank to make them happy.  Unfortunately, in business you cannot break the bank.  With these customers you have to try to take care of them by explaining your intent and also telling them exactly how you are able to take care of them.  They may not leave with bags of free goods or a years worth of free services but they will leave with more than they originally came in with.

When you are in the customer service position you must have the “Attitude” early.  The “Attitude” says that you will own the customer service that you and anyone in your organization gives.  Therefore, you know going in that your “Attitude” must win over customers.  Sometimes, your “Attitude” will cause a customer to give you and your organization another chance to earn their business.  You must give customer service unto others as you would want to be given customer service to.  Get your “Attitude” right before you walk in the door and your customers will rate you a 5-star customer service representative.

Hello world!

So you’ve headed out to your local “INSERT NAME HERE” to replace your old obsolete widget with the newest technologically advanced widget.  During your visit to “INSERT NAME HERE”, you bypass three to four of their competitors.  You pull into “INSERT NAME HERE’S” parking lot and exit your car.  You walk into the main entrance.  What happens?  Are you immediately attacked by half a dozen commissioned sales people with dollar signs in their eyes?  Are you greeted with the ever so popular “Is there anything I can help you find”?  Does the clerk say “Hello, welcome to “INSERT NAME HERE”” and then resume their personal phone call?  Or, worst of all, are you not even acknowledged?

In this BLOG we will embark on a journey to identify and define exceptional customer service.  In our economy we have an abundance of outlets where we can purchase our widgets; however, the majority of consumers will shop with the outlets which have the best customer service.  The outlets that go out of their way to make the experience memorable.  Customers will frequently shop at the outlets where they feel most comfortable with the sales staff or comfortable with a specific sales associate.  That being said, exceptional customer service is no longer labeled as “going above and beyond” but is now becoming the standard at which the customer service bar is set.

Now, I invite you to check back from time to time to read my BLOG.  If you are in search of exceptional customer service, help me to identify and define this complex and sometimes elusive idea.  Feel free to comment on my entries.  I do however ask you this, if you are going to comment please keep your comments PG-rated and please by all means keep your comments objective and reasonable.  Thank You for taking the time to read and enjoy.  I look forward to hearing your view of my experiences.