Blog Posts

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.

Read More

Topics: Customer Service

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!

Read More

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.

Read More

Topics: Customer Service

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.

Read More

Topics: Customer Service

Tips for Strategic Merchandizing

Posted by Ari Weinzweig on 4/29/19 12:05 PM

This may seem too simple to even mention, but I’m going to say it anyway:

Read More

Topics: Organizational Systems, Customer Service

CASE STUDY: Zingerman's Business Practices Have Gone to the Cats and Dogs!

Posted by Emily Sandelands on 3/19/19 3:15 PM


Read More

Topics: Organizational Systems, Customer Service, Visioning, Training

Bring Your Best Self to Work

Posted by Joanie Hales on 1/14/19 2:25 PM

Back in 2007, when Zingerman’s wrote Zingerman’s 2020 Vision describing what the business would look like in the year 2020, we wrote that “we [Zingerman’s] have successfully quantified fun, measured fun, and improved our fun factor by at least 380% since 2007. We actively teach people how to have fun at work. We have games to increase the volume of fun we experience and reward ourselves with added fun.”  

Read More

Topics: Customer Service, Leadership, Training

Giving Great Service to Your Staff

Posted by Maggie Bayless on 12/18/18 3:14 PM

We all know service is important—right?  We’d be surprised if there were a company left in the US which hasn’t incorporated some version of “the customer is always right” into its employee handbook.  Every politician and business leader can quote statistics about the pros and cons of the relentless move towards a “service economy.” And service is the topic most requested by clients who want ZingTrain to speak or work with their organization.  On the other hand, many people feel that the level of customer service that they receive as customers is lower than ever.

Read More

Topics: Customer Service, Leadership

6 Tips for Creating a Truly Great Customer Experience

Posted by Mara Ferguson on 12/4/18 11:00 AM

What does a truly great customer experience look like? We spend a lot of time thinking about this at Zingerman’s. In fact, we actively measure the customer experience  by way of the Zingerman’s Experience Indicator (ZXI), which is our adaptation of the more commonly known Net Promoter Score. As Ari explains in this article, “the ZXI has provided a measurement tool to help us track and stay more focused on how well we raise every customer’s experience to a level of greatness. Briefly, the measure tracks customer response to the one ultimate question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, (10 being high), would you recommend Zingerman’s to a friend?” Nines and 10's are considered promoters, 7's and 8's are neutrals, and anyone who scores 6 or below is deemed a detractor.”

Read More

Topics: Customer Service

Educating Your Customers: Using Every Opportunity to Teach and Sell

Posted by Maggie Bayless on 11/14/18 1:00 PM

For those of us who sell specialty products, customer education has always been part of the selling process.  Sometimes we’re offering products that most customers have never heard of. Other times we have items with familiar names but vastly superior ingredients or construction. Almost always the prices that we charge are higher than what is being charged somewhere else in our market for something that can SEEM to be the same thing. Our success depends upon customers understanding the differences between our products and the competition’s.

Read More

Topics: Customer Service

Your Guide to Training

We're glad you're here.

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.

Linger. Read. Assimilate. Participate. 

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts