Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Relationship Between The Server and The Customer (originally published May 28, 2010)

The relationship between server and customer can be an awkward one.
Ideally, when taking a customer’s order, we’re expected to be jolly and personable. We’re expected to talk to the customer. To hold a conversation with them. Ask them how their day was, perhaps talk about the weather. Do our best to make sure they want to come back again.
 The thing is, I’m not sure what customers are really thinking when a server tries to start a conversation with them. If they’re anything like me they want to tell them, “It’s okay, really, you don’t have to talk to me. I just came here for ice cream, not for a best friend.” And then if the person is really pushing this whole talking thing I really wanna say, “Man, if you don’t shut up and make my ice cream…”
 I’d say I’m a pretty friendly server. I take my customer’s order and then I make it. If they're talking about something interesting with their friend I might interject if I have an appropriate comment. For example, if their talking about a movie they just saw I’ll ask them how it was, or if I just saw the movie I’ll give them my opinion.
The other day I was ringing up a lady and she was saying to her friend, “You know who I like? Ann Curry. She just seems like a good person.” So I got excited because I like Ann Curry too, and I said, “Oh my gosh, I love Ann Curry too! She’s my favorite Today Show anchor! She’s so nice and she’s really pretty.” And we went on to have a conversation about Ann Curry.
My point is, when the time is right, I’ll strike up a conversation, but if you seem distracted I don’t force it. My main goal is to get you in and out in a timely manner and I think that’s usually what people want.
I think we’ve all experienced that server that’s just a bit too uppity. They’re just a little too in your face.
Like when I’m at a restaurant with friends and we’re in the midst of a deep discussion, and it’s pretty obvious that we’d like to be interrupted as little as possible, especially after we already have our food, but she keeps coming over!
“Are you guys okay?”
“Yes, we’re fine thank you.”
5 minutes later…
“You guys need anything?”
“Nope. We’re good, thanks.”
3 minutes later…
“You guys good?”
“Yep… Still fine…”
1 minute later…
“Hey are you guys-“
When serving a customer, I deem it best to avoid this situation. I like to give them their personal space.
On top of making your ice cream, imagine having to sing whenever a tip is dropped in the jar. Now I don't mind singing at all, after all that's part of my job description. Sometimes though it's difficult to balance the singing with serving the customer. For example, if I'm serving you and we're in the middle of discussing your order, would you want me to burst into song? Would that be a little weird for you?
Overall the relationship between the server and the customer is about balance. Doing my job competently, while making sure the customer is comfortable.
Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe that's just me.
How do you like for your servers to address you?

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