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A Day With ZingTrain: 5 Lessons Learned About Giving Great Customer Service

Posted by Julia Levy on 11/25/19 4:30 PM

I grew up with pastrami on rye (for special occasions) from delis in New York City and South Florida. But, my memories of time at these establishments are less about the service and more about the food—mostly because of waitresses declaring sharing charges for split meals (I was 8 years old, how could I possibly eat a sandwich the size of my plate?!).

So, when my Wolverine friends (alumni from the University of Michigan) shared their stories of Zingerman’s outstanding service that is paired with the incredible food, the rave reviews intrigued me. Soon thereafter, I discovered the Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook at my local bookstore and instantly fell for their baked goods from afar—the  classic coffee cakes, chocolate coconut macaroons and other home baked delights.

Of course, when the opportunity was offered for me to attend a full-day workshop with ZingTrain, the training business within the Zingerman's Community of Businesses, I signed up fast. Offered by the Jewish Federation of Greater of Atlanta, this ZingTrain training invited up to two representatives from organizations within the ecosystem of Jewish groups serving the Atlanta area. As the Co-Founders of Tradition Kitchens and recipients of a PROPEL Innovation Grant from Federation, we are honored to be a part of that network. We are also deeply grateful that this class was significantly subsidized by the Federation.

With many references to food, our training day focused on customer service. Thank you to our teachers, Timo Anderson and Arianna Tellez, for their engaging lessons which made a full-day fly by fast. These are my five lessons learned from my day with ZingTrain, and how I plan to apply them to Tradition Kitchens.

1. How we welcome people matters.

When a guest arrives who you know, you are likely greet them with a hug. But, how will the person behind them feel if they're greeted with a handshake? 

The ZingTrain team made us think carefully about this scenario. As someone who often stands at the front door at events to welcome guests, I had never thought of what message I would be sending by hugging one person and not another. But, now I plan to be more of a smiler and give virtual hugs. 

We also learned about the FTG—First Time Guest. How do you feel if someone doesn’t remember meeting you before? Awful. Same with a restaurant experience, if the employees don’t remember you. It's important to greet someone as though you've seem them before. It’s much more welcoming to say—“When was the last time you were in?” Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as a regular? While our classes at Tradition Kitchens are small now, we won't always be the greeters, so we’ll be drawing from this strategy as we grow. 


2. Adopt the 10/4 Rule

In this digitally connected world, we’re glued to our phones—in elevators, in line at the grocery store and while walking down the street. We all have a million emails to answer, but our phone can also be an excuse to not engage with people around us. As someone who struggles with this reality, I love Zingerman's 10/4 Rule.

The 10/4 Rule states when you are within ten feet of someone, make eye contact and smile, and when you are within four feet, greet them verbally. This may be well utilized when at a store and for those in customer service roles, however, I wonder what would happen if we all tried this in our offices and neighborhoods. I plan to apply this philosophy as guests arrive for our classes to add an even more personal touch to our events. 


3. Be mindful of energy.

ZingTrain teaches about three types of energy—physical, emotional and vibrational. Striking the right balance is key to a customer’s experience. Be cognizant of your employees' energies, and stop energy vampires (people who drain energy from others) in their tracks, before they can impact your culture. And of course, remember the platinum rule—"do unto others as they would do unto you."

When I think about the energy that I’ll take to each class at Tradition Kitchens, it will be focused on the giving the greatest experience possible to students. If it’s raining or the day has been challenging, I will strive to not let any external factors get in the way of the class experience that is sacred.  


4. Collect customer feedback often.

Zingerman’s asks for feedback from customers all the time. The feedback collected then receives a categorization as a code red (a customer complaint or suggestion), or a code green (a customer compliment).  They make regular time to review this feedback and make adjustments quickly and accordingly. At Tradition Kitchens, this reiterates how important it is to review feedback after class and tweak the next experience.

One question on Zingerman’s customer feedback survey is short and powerful—“Based on your experience, how likely are you to recommend Zingerman's to a co-worker or friend?”  With a frequent focus on what can be done to improve service, Zingerman’s keeps customers coming back. We've recently incorporated a similar version of this question into our post-event survey, and hope to see similar results, as well. 


5. Weave a web of appreciation.

Expressing gratitude is a central pillar of Zingerman’s philosophy. In their newsletter "Workin'," sent monthly via e-mail and printed for all 700+ team members to access, anyone on the Zingerman’s team can recognize their colleagues who go above and beyond as “Extra Mile Files.” In addition, their Great Service Group collects nominations for monthly Service Awards, and features winners in "Workin'," as well.

In addition to those being appreciated, the person giving the appreciation is mentioned as well, in order to honor those who have taken the time to appreciate others. I absolutely love that because it encourages a culture of celebrating each other’s success. For Zingerman's team members, it’s an honor to win a Service Award as well as to be recognized as a nominator. I appreciate the extra thoughtful approach to saying "thanks." It got us thinking about how this applies to the chefs who host our Tradition Kitchens classes. 


Now that I've learned some exciting new tools for giving great customer service, I'm eager to try them out in our programs.


But, what’s really on my mind is when can I visit Zingerman’s to see this customer service in action, attend a Bake! class and also eat one of those sandwiches. I need to make some "grown-up" memories of pastrami on rye with great service on the side. Next stop—Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Topics: Customer Service

Zingerman's 12 Natural Laws of Business

Posted by Gauri Thergaonkar on 11/8/19 11:55 AM

The creation of the 12 Natural Laws of Business is a lot like the story they tell about gravity. Apples had been falling off trees and hitting the ground long before Sir Isaac Newton figured out how, and why, and how fast. Similarly, somewhere along the way in our over almost 38-year-long existence, Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw, the co-founders at Zingerman’s, also realized that there were some fundamental laws on which we operated our businesses. And they set about articulating and documenting them.

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Topics: Leadership, Organizational Culture

3 Tips for Writing a Vision of Success

Posted by Kat Gordon on 10/22/19 3:51 PM

This isn’t a vision, it’s an illustrated to-do list… let’s try a second draft.

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Topics: Visioning, Client Story

The Best Swag for Your Event

Posted by Mara Ferguson on 10/14/19 2:28 PM

It's October. So naturally, we're looking nine months out and thinking about our annual symposium, aptly named ZingPosium. Determining the content we'll share and theme of the event are important, but something else we'll be spending a lot of time thinking about is the Swag we'll give to attendees. 

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The Manager's Role in Staff Training

Posted by Maggie Bayless on 9/23/19 12:03 PM

My formal education was first in German literature and then later in business administration.  What I know about training design, development and delivery I’ve learned through on-the-job practice and self study.  I’ve gone to lots of seminars, designed hundreds of classes and workshops, and helped to implement effective training here at Zingerman’s.  Along the way I’ve read many, many books. One of the most influential has been The Learning Alliance, co-authored by Ann Arbor consultant (and regular Zingerman’s customer) Stephen Gill.  The ideas advanced in that book, which emphasizes that employee learning should be integrated into all aspects of the organization not just delegated to the “training department,” formed the basis for Bottom-Line Training™, Zingerman’s approach to training.

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Topics: Training

Strong Systems to Greet Customers: Celebrate 10-4 Day with ZingTrain

Posted by Elnian Gilbert on 9/19/19 4:28 PM

The article below was originally published in Lawn & Garden Retailer in 2017, as a collaboration between former ZingTrain Community Builder, Gauri Thergaonkar, and myself.  I vividly remember sitting at a table in our lobby area, discussing all of the fine points of the 10-4 Rule - what would be the most useful to our audience and hotly debating what to include (and ultimately leave out, though it was a hard call to keep anything back!)  We had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m proud of what we created together. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve shared this article with folks in training, and now we’re sharing it with you!

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Topics: Customer Service

7 Common Customer Service Mistakes

Posted by Elnian Gilbert on 8/30/19 1:37 PM

Over the years that I’ve been a Trainer and Speaker with ZingTrain, sharing how Zingerman’s builds a culture of great service, I’m sure you can imagine how my awareness of the way that different companies deliver customer service has only increased.  Of course, there’s a wide range out there - I personally try to patronize businesses that prioritize service and give constructive feedback when my expectations aren’t met.  And thankfully, the clients we get to work with at ZingTrain are typically high performers when it comes to customer service and don’t fall into these customer service traps.

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Topics: Customer Service

The 6 Characteristics of an Effective Servant Leader

Posted by Katie Frank on 8/22/19 2:34 PM

Before we dive into what it means to be an effective Servant Leader, I want to tell you a story...

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Topics: Leadership

Why Write a Company Vision and How to Get Started

Posted by Maggie Bayless on 7/29/19 3:29 PM

It’s January 1, 2025 and your business has been quite successful.  What do you see, hear, smell and feel going on around you that is evidence of that success?  If you can describe that scene, you’ll have a vision of greatness for your organization - an incredibly powerful tool to get everyone working together and moving in the same direction.

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Topics: Visioning

How to Give Great Customer Service Over the Phone

Posted by Joanie Hales on 7/26/19 9:44 AM

You’ve probably spent some statistically significant portion of your life on the phone. You know how to pick up the phone, basic phone manners, and how to hang up. We’re all, most likely, perfectly capable of picking up a phone and talking into it...

But we also need to learn to take the art of telephone service seriously. At Zingerman’s, we do millions of dollars of business a year on the telephone so it's imperative that we give the best, most professional service possible whenever we are on the phone.

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Topics: Customer Service

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Enjoy the nuggets of wisdom, techniques, tips, and insights we've gathered from sharing the Zingerman's unique approach to business for over 20 years. We've offered training to thousands of people on topics like customer service, leadership, visioning, open-book management, among many others, and we plan to share as much of that insight we've gathered from doing so with you here.

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