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Customer Service - A Lesson from Hori

I was enjoying lunch last week at Benihana with our awesome chef, Hori. He was great, flipping and flying food with the best of them. Sadly, Hori had to deal with two high maintenance and very unhappy people. (Not us, we were delightful-don’t be silly.)


“We don’t want sauce.” “Add this sauce.” “More garlic butter.” “More this, more that…” Complain, huff, deep sighs. I felt badly for Hori, as did my dining companion who heard more than I did. Hori, though, rolled with flow, stayed professional, dignified, and kept plugging away doing his job like the rockstar he clearly is.


As is the usual, once your onion-volcano-making, shrimp-tail-flipping, clickety-clacking, food-flying chef is done, he’s off to another table to wow those guests and add more shrimp tails to his hat. After he left, the two at our table (or for the fancy reader … hibachi) went on a rant with the server about Hori.


Because, as previously mentioned, we were delightful, we stayed after to tell the server how great Hori was. We found out the other guests had complained about Hori and his awful service, saying he was “too old and should retire.” Can you imagine? Apparently, they “get stuck with him all the time.” All I could think was thank goodness I’m not in a customer service role like that.


Then it occurred to me. Unless you are a hermit living in a cave, everyone is in customer service. Everyone you deal with is a customer in one way or another. Your coworkers, your boss, your clients, your vendors, your friends and even your family. They’re just customers in different ways.


So, then, what can we learn from Hori?


1.       Keep your cool. The ability to keep your cool comes easier to some than others. When you read that review, when you have that complaining customer in your face, when your coworker leaves the copier jammed and doesn’t fix it, all these are opportunities to lose your mind or to stay calm. Take a breath. Count to 10 (or 10 million), think about puppies, whatever helps. What would Hori do? He’d just placidly and professionally keep making volcanoes and flipping those shrimp tails (or in the case of the paper jam, I’m sure he’d expertly unjam it and move on).


2.       Continue trying to help until you can’t. Don’t let anyone derail your excellent customer service. Keep your cool (see #1) and continue to do what you do best. Hori persevered and kept doing his best with all frustrating requests. Bless his heart.



3.       You can’t please everyone no matter what you do. Guess what? Nobody has a 100% success rate. I don’t care who you are, what you do, there is always going to be someone who isn’t into your jam and how you do things. That’s life. Hori knows this. Let’s make sure we keep on reminding ourselves of this as often as possible.


4.       Don’t take it to heart and stay your awesome self. If you’re a perfectionist like someone I know (read: me) you can do 1,000 things amazingly, but the 1001st you blow, well clearly that’s the one you focus on. If I know Hori like I think I know Hori (and of course I know him after the 30 minutes he spent cooking for us) he moved on unfazed and just kept going, like the Zen master I have created him to be in my mind.


So, remember not everyone is going to love you. All you can do it stay awesome, keep your cool and keep doing your job as if they were your favorite customers in the world. Just like Hori would. And when all else fails … start flipping shrimp tails.

Ms. Sylla has over 17 years of marketing experience in multifamily, commercial and residential real estate.
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