At Your Service

Training courses help wait staff at restaurants across the United States increase the meal ticket and earn a higher tip. There’s a lesson here for credit unions, too.


An issue of Businessweek earlier this year included a two-page article about the power of proper service. Waiters can earn more money for themselves as well as the restaurant if they use the correct techniques, according to the article. To remedy the demise of the “sorry state of American table waiting,” students of fine dining can attend courses that promise they’ll learn the etiquette and the art of great service.

The article got me thinking about the service I experience daily. Sure, dining is part of the service industry, but so is financial services, so some best practices in one should at least theoretically translate to the other. With that in mind, here are a three pieces of insight from the article I think have tactical takeaways for credit unions:

  1. Smiles Are Free. A smile and calm demeanor instills trust with diners.

    Credit union takeaway: If customers need a waiter to reassure them a side dish is an excellent choice, think about how nerve-wracking major financial decisions can be. When approached by an angry or apprehensive member, member-facing staff should smile first, ask questions second. This is what credit union service is all about, recognizing your members for the individuals they are.

    Credit union takeaway: The moment of pause gives staff a chance to collect their thoughts and start the interaction off on the correct foot; plus, a smile demonstrates the value of the member.

  2. Know Your Customer. Depending on the restaurant, formal training that includes several ways to fold a napkin and how to put out a table fire might not be as important as knowing about the local or seasonal ingredients.

    Credit union takeaway: Do your customers appreciate the formality of the traditional “banking” relationship or are they looking for a more intimate experience? Figure out and exceed the service expectations of your members. This ranges from their expectation of your attire to the variety of your product suite.

  3. Better Presentation Can Bypass The Need For More Products.“If you improve the dining room, you don’t have to touch your food,” says Bernard Martinage of the Federation of Dining Room Professionals in the article.

    Credit union takeaway: More isn’t necessarily better. Neither is bigger. Better is better, so your front-line staff better know the credit union’s products and services inside and out, backward and forward. If a member comes at you with a wild and wacky need, your staff needs to know if the credit union already has a viable solution.

Just as a well trained wait staff can make for a superior dining experience, your well trained employees can turn a ho-hum trip to the credit union into an experience to Yelp about.


March 14, 2012



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