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.