Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 45
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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“The Art of Giving Great Service” Workshop Attended by 155 Local Merchants, Employees

Dilshanie Perera

The Princeton Merchants Association-organized workshop on Monday focusing on customer service as a priority saw about 155 participants coming from 30 Princeton businesses. The training held in the library’s Community Room was led by representatives from Zingerman’s, an Ann Arbor-based family of businesses that grew from a single deli to include a bakery, creamery, restaurant, coffee roasters, a candy manufacturing company, a mail-order business, and a training operation.

PMA Board Member Fran McManus said that she had gone to a Zingerman’s training several years ago to take a merchandising training class. “It was fascinating to see the company. They have such a huge reputation.”

“Their service is what makes them successful, almost against all the odds …. It was a dream to bring them here to do a workshop for the businesses in the community,” Ms. McManus noted.

In addition to retail owners and restauranteurs, representatives from the public library and Princeton University were also at the training session.

The four-hour-long workshop met for two separate sessions in the Community Room of the library and focused on Zingerman’s approach to customer service training.

They measure bottom-line success in three ways, according to Ms. McManus: “great food, great service, and great finance.”

“The service is not a means to an end, but it’s an end in and of itself,” she added.

One of the revelations of the workshop that seemed transparent in retrospect was that merchants have to define what good service actually is, Ms. McManus acknowledged. “You can’t expect it and you can’t teach it unless you’ve defined it.”

“They began by talking about service within the business itself: how you treat your fellow employees, vendors, your UPS driver. It isn’t just your customers that deserve great service,” Ms. McManus pointed out.

Founded in 1982 by Ari Weinzweig, Paul Saginaw, and Michael Monahan as a deli, Zingerman’s grew in terms of success and notoriety over the first decade it was open. Upon getting many requests to franchise their business, the owners decided instead to create other food businesses within the city of Ann Arbor, where managing partners could run each related operation within the family of businesses.

“How you provide opportunities for good people to rise up within the company is always a challenge in the small business community,” Ms. McManus said, adding that the training session “was inspiring on all different levels: for business owners to contemplate their futures, for managers and employees to see how a business that really focuses on service is run, and how it feels to work there and shop there.”

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