Roger Vergé was a world-renowned chef. He won the Michelin star for his restaurant, Moulin de Mougins, three times and countless other awards.
Shep Gordon, Vergé’s manager, described him as the first person he ever met that had true success. He was a master as his craft, and truly happy.
Gordon shares a story with The Chiseler about going out to eat with Vergé. The long-time manager estimates that he ate roughly 1,000 meals with him.
So what’s it like eating with a world class chef?
“I remember one time the food was horrible,” Gordon shares. “I ate half of my plate. He finished his plate and my plate. When we left the restaurant, I said, ‘Did you really think it that was good?’ And he said, ‘Oh Shep, it was horrible.’ But he ate every bit of it.”
Why would Vergé do that?
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I spent a good chunk of my time traveling alongside many other people. For some reason, I was more observant in my travels.
When you travel, you often hire many services and interact with lots of people.
You might take an Uber or Lyft to the airport. Go through security and interact with TSA. Board a plane with other passengers. Deal with flight attendants. Rental car agencies. Hotel concierges. Waiters at restaurants.
When traveling, you’re a constant customer of different services.
It wasn’t until recently, where I began to notice how people were treating the folks providing these services.
One of the consequences of working in customer support almost every day is that you gain perspective on being a customer. Here’s 3 lessons I’ve learned on how to be a kinder customer.
Help me, help you. It’s true.
If you need assistance from someone, it’s important to explain exactly what you want to accomplish and where you’re struggling in trying to do so.
Because the best answer is often a question for someone trying to help you.
If you can eliminate those questions by providing information up front, it’s a win-win for everyone.
For example, contacting support and saying, “everything is missing, please advise,” isn’t all that helpful.
It generates more questions for the person providing support, which can lead to lots of back and forth. Anxiety.
If you contact support, and say, “a note added November 8 is no longer in my account. It contained the phrase the brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, and it was added by my colleague, Colleen.” That’s a start.
It leads support in a direction, and gets you help you faster. The more information that is shared benefits everyone. Win-win.
Have you ever gone to the grocery store hungry without a list of what you want to buy?
It doesn’t end well. You buy lots of stuff you don’t really need.
The same is true when you contact support without sharing specific information. It can cause more anxiety and waste valuable time for everyone.
May I speak with your manager?
It’s one the oldest customer tactics. And for good reason, it sadly, works a lot of the time.
I’ve never thought much about this question until I was asked, or not asked, it. It’s happened to me more than a few times.
A customer emails your boss directly instead of interacting with you, or complains to your boss instead of asking you beforehand if there is anything else you can do to help.
It’s demoralizing. It doesn’t matter what job you have, a feeling of autonomy and being empowered is so important.
So when a customer tries to go over top of a support person, it destroys those feelings.
This is why I’ve learned to always ask if a manager or someone else could help me before going around the person who is trying to provide support.
I get that sometimes you have to do it. A support person does a bad job. I’ve certainly done a poor job in the past, and a customer went around me to try to get help from elsewhere.
Most of the time that isn’t a reflection of the person doing support though.
It’s more of a reflection of the organization. If an organization doesn’t empower the people doing support, no one really wins. Especially, the customer.
Before trying to contact someone with a C-Level title, ask the person providing support first. This puts you in a better position to get help and the attention from their boss.
Twitter and other social media platforms are full of complaints. Try a Twitter search for a common airline, like United.
When you do a bad job, people will let you know. And they probably should. Word of mouth is powerful.
Actions speak louder than words. So if you constantly complain about a service or product, or shitty support, take your business elsewhere.
As much as people call out poor support, you rarely see folks praising support when they do a good job. Most folks that are happy with a service or product, you don’t hear from. These satisfied folks tend to be more quiet. That’s completely fine.
I would encourage you to tell a support person when they do a good job. Because it can make a support person’s day.
I’ve had really rough weeks where every customer interaction feels contentious, and then one customer tells me what a great job we’re doing and everything changes. It makes my day, and sometimes my week.
The same is true when I see a customer praise a teammate of mine. The good vibes bring a smile to my face, and make me proud to work with everyone. It can really lift the spirits of the people that do support.
I’ve learned you should never expect praise when working in support. So when someone does tell you that you do a good job, it makes it that much sweeter.
You can scream when someone does a bad job. And you can also pat someone on the back when they do a good job too.
“He’d say to me, ‘Shep, you know when I come into a restaurant, the chef looks to see when the plates come back if they’re empty,’” Gordon continued about Vergé.
Here’s one of the world’s greatest chefs admitting the food is terrible, but eating every morsel of food on his plate and his friend’s plate.
Gordon explained further, “because he knew that if that plate came back empty, he made a happy man out of the chef. If there was one piece of meat left on that plate, the chef might kill himself. He’s had Mr. Vergé at his restaurant and he didn’t eat everything? It had nothing to do with Vergé enjoying the food. It was him realizing what would make someone happy.”
Vergé was a great chef. He was also a fine patron too.
It’s important to remember, you too, can be a customer.
Thanks to this Shep Gordon interview from The Chiseler for inspiration of this post. If you dig that interview, try watching the documentary Supermensch on Shep Gordon or reading his book, They Call me Supermensch. Both include more fascinating stories about Vergé.