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The Capital Grille Understands the Importance of Reputation, Do You?

Excellent customer service makes the purchase process so much more enjoyable, doesn’t it? 

Even to the extent that I can spend $250 on dinner for my wife and I and walk out feeling like I got a good deal. We had dinner at the Capital Grille in Lombard, IL last night, and this morning, besides thinking how much I enjoyed the dinner last night I also thought, “Capital Grille really gets what this reputation thing is all about”.

Now we have been to Capital Grille before, and we know they have great food and service, but I hadn’t really thought about how the service experience and their reputation is integrated so well into their business, and that auto dealerships could steal some of these ideas.

Let’s start with our waiter, TJ Bozek.  Either TJ really loves what he does or he is an academy award-winning actor.  The smile never left his face the entire evening.  When they mistakenly brought out the wrong two sides to us we let him know, and he brought the correct sides to us within two minutes, apologized, and let us know we could keep the other two sides (he explained with a smile, “it’s like in Monopoly, Bank error in your favor”). So they make a mistake, and he is smiling and joking about it, yet the mistake did not diminish the experience at all.  He apologized, fixed the problem immediately, and moved on.  He didn’t blame the other server, complain, or let it get him down, he just took care of it.  I believe he sees his job not as a waiter who brings us our food, but as our sole link with the restaurant’s reputation and he is there not to serve food but to maximize our experience.  How do the employees at your dealership see their job?  Is their job to sell cars, or fix cars, or move the cars, or to maximize a customer’s experience at the dealership?  Are they taking care of problems as efficiently, or do they pass them on for someone else to handle?

On a side note, when we sat down my wife asked TJ what the dozen or so silver stars on his lapel were for.  He let us know he gets one when someone calls his manager to compliment the job he did.  Imagine that.  We continually talk about how important it is for dealers to constantly monitor their reputation and reviews that are online.  TJ wears his reputation and reviews on his suit jacket for the world to see.  It is important to note too, that TJ is not just building a 5 star reputation for Capital Grille, but he is building a 5 star reputation for himself.  He understands the value to have people not only return to the restaurant, but come back and ask for him personally.  Do your sales people track their personal reputation and reviews?  Are they scoring themselves?  Are they wearing their reputation on their jackets?  Why Not?

TJ did other things to make this a great night, helping with alternate suggestions, not to upsell us, but again, to maximize our experience. At the end of the dinner he shook our hands to thank us for coming in, and handed me his card.  I am trying to remember the last time (if ever?) that a waiter shook my hand at the end of the meal.   Here I think it was just part of going above and beyond what we expect from that employee.  Do your employees consistently go above and beyond?  Do they find little ways they can surprise customers by going beyond what they expect?

With all the extra food we couldn’t eat everything, and so TJ wrapped it up for us.  When we got home, I saw a card attached to the bag that read “We are glad you enjoyed your meal enough to take some home with you. Thank you for dining with us, we appreciate your business” and it was signed “Chef Mitch”.  

I thought to myself “seriously? It’s just a doggie bag”, but there it is again, finding ways to surprise customers to make the experience unique.  Is this something your service department can do?  Possibly leave a card on the customer’s dashboard that reads something like We appreciate you trusting us with your car ‘s oil change. We consider it a privilege to service your vehicle. Thank you for your business.”  And then signed by the Service Manager?  Do your customers really get how much you appreciate them?

I can get a great steak in a lot of places.  Capital Grille surely understands this. They also understand that to differentiate themselves they can control the experience around the steak to set themselves above their competition.  Are you selling the experience, or just selling steak?

 

Views: 1377

Tags: Capital Grille, Management, reputation, reviews

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Comment by Brent Albrecht on February 20, 2012 at 9:24pm

Thanks for all the compliments - I'm glad everyone enjoyed it. Nice to give back on this forum, it's a great resource.

Comment by Tom Gorham on February 20, 2012 at 8:44pm

This was such a great article in so many ways.  But hats off to this paragraph:

 

"On a side note, when we sat down my wife asked TJ what the dozen or so silver stars on his lapel were for.  He let us know he gets one when someone calls his manager to compliment the job he did.  Imagine that.  We continually talk about how important it is for dealers to constantly monitor their reputation and reviews that are online.  TJ wears his reputation and reviews on his suit jacket for the world to see.  It is important to note too, that TJ is not just building a 5 star reputation for Capital Grille, but he is building a 5 star reputation for himself.  He understands the value to have people not only return to the restaurant, but come back and ask for him personally.  Do your sales people track their personal reputation and reviews?  Are they scoring themselves?  Are they wearing their reputation on their jackets?  Why Not?"

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on February 20, 2012 at 7:39pm

Really Good Article Brent...thanks for taking the time to share.

Comment by Brent Albrecht on February 20, 2012 at 6:30am

Ralph you are absolutely right.  I doubt that TJ just happens to be a great waiter at an average restaurant, but guessing capital grille tries to get all of their employees to go above and beyond. I think too that personally signed notes are becoming a "lost art" in our digital age.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 20, 2012 at 6:04am

I know TJ is the star of this story, but my hat is off to "Chef Mitch" for having the wherewithal to include a note and a business card in the doggie bag while working in what is undoubtedly a very busy kitchen!

Comment by Anthony (Tony) J. Gauntner on February 19, 2012 at 11:35am
Great article that really illustrates how "the little things" mean so much and leaves lasting impressions on us... TJ exceeded his customer's expectations and Brent just told thousands of people how spectacular Capital Grill is. Brent's experience proves that every employee in every organization has a responsibility in making the customers experience extraordinary and how it eventually trickles down to their career and paycheck.
I've never had a waiter give me a business card or shake my hand, this sounds like a top notch company. In a dealership, I think every employee without exception should have business cards and no matter what their position is, they should be encouraged to "sell" and be financially rewarded if their referal brings in a sale. Business cards can make somebody like a parts driver or porter feel needed and an important team member. Exceed an employees expectations and they will exceed their customers expectations too.
Comment by Gene Loop on February 19, 2012 at 9:32am

The similarities that exist between the restaurant & automobile business are amazing. Think about the skills that waiters & auto sales people share. The hours...(late nights & weekends), the people skills (asking relevant questions & then listening to the answers), process ( whether a 6,8,10 step) & knowledge of the products. (cabernet to clutches).

Great article that puts the point on the fact that it all ends up about the customer's perception of value....it's all relative...a $250 meal or a $25,000 vehicle. 

Comment by Lloyd Hecht on February 19, 2012 at 8:30am
Great article. I immediately shared this with some dealership clients.
Comment by Tobias Sedillos on February 19, 2012 at 8:01am
Indeed: appreciation is affordable and valuable. I thank the people that cross my path with a card in the mail. I appreciate them for who the are, and it feels good to let them know it. It doesn't matter if they do business with you or not... Noteworthy service gets shared, the story gets told; and people take an interest and show up. Average service is never remembered or shared; do what you can to become remarkable. Smile and say thank you, and strive to make their experience with you the highlight of their day.

Tobias Sedillos
http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/TobiasForAutos
Comment by Timothy Martell on February 19, 2012 at 8:01am

Great article. It takes commitment from ownership to instill culture through process. Your insights are dead on! I would love to see this kind of culture inside the dealer environment. Unfortunately, being exceptional is, by definition, the exception and not the rule. I wonder how many dealer's will read this and do nothing. On the other hand, I'd love to hear about the dealer who reads this and does act! Will anyone take the challenge?

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