Grandma’s pancakes and customer service

by | Dec 7, 2021

My grandma could teach you a thing or two about customer service. The way she treated us was better than any five-star hotel.

stack of homemade pancakes on a red plate

My grandmother lived with my aunt three hours away from my hometown, and I remember she always made pancakes for my siblings and me for breakfast. A simple experience, but it had that magical nostalgia that made it unforgettable. It wasn’t just about the pancakes. It was about everything else that came with it. I learned that you can’t have great service if you don’t have empathy and love.

She woke up at six in the morning every day, and the sweet smell of the delicious pancakes she was preparing woke me up. I dragged myself out of bed and went straight to the dining table to see the plates laid out on the table with forks, knives, and everything set. All ready to sit down and start eating. After we said our good mornings, she would ask me if I wanted coffee or orange juice. I always chose the latter, and she knew that. But she felt she needed to ask if I wanted something different that day, which I occasionally did. Then I sat down, and in the middle of the table would be a stack of her freshly made, glorious-looking pancakes. They seemed to be straight from stock imagery — even golden brown and notably fluffy. They also smelled like heaven on earth.

I ate as many as I could. Each bite was a delight. The pancakes were soft and fluffy, and each mouthful melted in my mouth. It was impossible to eat just a few. I added honey and butter to mine, which were both there on the table for all to use. Not only that, my brother tells me that grandma was quick. No matter how fast he wolfed them down, he was never able to keep up with her. And my brother eats as if his life depended on it. So, there was plenty to go around and to have everyone full and happy.

My aunt told me she used butter, sugar, flour, milk, eggs, and soda. Nothing more, nothing less. Just basic ingredients. Now, to me, that is where her magic is. My grandmother did not do any fancy recipes. There was no extra secret ingredient, but it was all just very well done. She knew that if you are going to do something, you do it the right way, from her attention to her cooking to her care for us. She just wanted to give us a delicious meal to start our day. And she did it the right way.

“if you are going to do something, you do it the right way”

Now, did my grandmother have a degree in customer service? No. She just knew that giving us a wonderful meal and fulfilling our unexpressed wishes would make us happy. She anticipated our wants. That is why she was a great host.

Unexpressed wishes

I like the phrase fulfilling our unexpressed wishes. But I must admit, I saw it while reading a book called Zag by Marty Neumeier. Marty writes about the Ritz-Carlton hotels and their credo, “The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” He goes on to say, “there are two ways to fulfill those unexpressed wishes: the analysis of many data points over time, and the practical application of empathy.”

Certainly, my grandmother did not think about data points over time, and she did not have an excel sheet or graph to see how she could improve. But I am sure she perfected her pancake breakfasts through the years. I know this because she would ask how it all was. She would tell my aunt to buy the orange juice that she knew we liked. Everything she did had her signature on it — empathy and care.

Now, I haven’t been to a Ritz-Carlton hotel. So, I can not say from my own experience if they do fulfill those unexpressed wishes. It is a mighty task. And come to think of it, I rarely feel my unexpressed wishes fulfilled. When I ate pancakes for breakfast made by my grandmother was a prime example. Now, granted, it is difficult for a business to recreate a bond between a grandmother and her grandson. But even if you fall short, you will do better than most if you try. And that is extremely valuable.

Grandma knows best

So what can you do to improve your customer service? Here is what my grandmother would suggest:

If you are going to do something, do it right. Set your table, store, or service just right so the customers can have all they need.

Serve great food or deliver a great product. You don’t need anything fancy but make it good enough and improve on it over time.

Treat each customer as an individual. Each customer has their personality, and they are not just another number. Remember their likes and dislikes. If possible, remember their name. Dale Carnegie said, “Respect and acceptance stem from simple acts such as remembering a person’s name and using it whenever appropriate.”

Unexpressed wishes. To anticipate your customers’ wishes you need empathy and care. Most importantly, it is about them having a great experience.

Why should you follow my grandmother’s advice? Well, she sadly passed away about ten years ago. But she is alive and well in all her children’s, grandchildren’s, and great-grandchildren’s memories. Those moments we spent with her will always be ours. I miss her and how she showed her love. I bet it would be nice to hear those words when they talk about your customer service. Be sure that everything you do, you do it with empathy and love and that you do it right.

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