Customer Service Advice From Mildred Pierce

signagemp-thumb-520x323While Mildred Pierce anxiously eats her ham sandwich at a restaurant in Los Angeles, she witnesses a waitress being fired for stealing tips and sees an opportunity.

Never having worked in a restaurant before, she makes her way into the kitchen and asks for a job as a waitress as clearly there is an opening.

She’s dressed in a uniform, given a few instructions, handed a pencil and paper then told to go take orders from customers.

While Mildred needed the job to pay her bills, she also had bigger plans: to open her own restaurant.

But, in order to succeed, she needed to get her hands dirty as a waitress and truly understand what the customer wants.

She eventually figures it out and opens more than one restaurant with these three key elements:

A Simple, Consistent Menu and Pricing

Mildred’s Chicken and Waffles opens in the 1940’s and each item is 85 cents. She saves her customers time by not having a paper menu because she has only two main course options and three side choices:

  • Chicken and waffles
  • Chicken and vegetables
  • Biscuits, soup and salad

Customers gravitate toward this and she has a full house every night. In our day, we find this in places such as In-N-Out Burger where the menu is short, consistent and the prices are low. Keeping it simple for your customer will take the work out of the experience. Staying consistent with your product and pricing allows your customer to trust you. Both are elements in bringing in more customers more frequently and expanding your business.

Accessibility To Customers

Mildred is in the kitchen, frying up the chicken and baking the biscuits. She’s then out in the dining area, promoting a professional image and walking to each customer’s table, talking to them and thanking them–no matter how busy she is. Despite being the owner of the restaurant, she makes appearances to ensure her customers are having a positive experience. Making yourself available to your customers is necessary as it shows the customer that you care and that they are part of an exclusive group that “know” you. We all like to talk to the owner of so-and-so business as we feel we have an “in”. Giving your customer the time with a hello and thank you says so much about your company. Even Jeremy mentions this experience at a recent meal out in San Diego where the owner came to their table.

 Customer Experience Focus

When Mildred opens her second location in Beverly Hills, she knows that she’s catering to an upper class crowd, therefore the ambiance of the restaurant is shifted from her Glendale dining experience. The same occurs when she opens her Laguna Beach restaurant, which also includes adding surf-and-turf options to her menu to reel in the beach crowd. Knowing who your customers are will help you cater exactly to their wants, which brings more business in through your door.

I have one more episode of this drama to go…have you seen it? Can you think of additional customer service lessons from the HBO Mini Series Mildred Pierce?

[custom_author=jenny]

Jenny Dempsey is currently the the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. She has worked at tech startups since 2005. She's the co-founder and regular contributor over at CustomerServiceLife.com. She's a certified health coach, but not the kind that forces you to only eat cardboard and deprive yourself of ice cream. JennyDempseyWellness.com, the company she started, was designed to bring a new type of wellness into the workplace, one that gives you permission to look deeper into yourself, rather than just on the healthy snacks in the break room. She is the mother to a toothless rescue cat named Chompers. Avocados and veggie tacos are the way to her heart. She's also a Hanson fan for life.

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