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Mastering the Art of Customer Service

Vadim Nayman, owner of Bagel Master, shares how he believes he can solve any problem without saying no to his customers. He also shares the inside scoop on using social media to stay top of mind.

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

Bagels can be a touchy subject. New Yorkers feel that a bagel made outside of New York just isn’t a bagel. And bagel enthusiasts are a loyal bunch. Once they find their bagel spot, there just aren’t any other options in their eyes.

Bagel Master

That was the case for Yelp reviewer Karen N., who is an ardent fan of Bagel Master in Syosset, New York.

Her review says it all. “I have no Jewish ancestry but have lived on Long Island most of my life, and I will tell you if you want to know what a TRUE bagel should taste like, what the ‘mouth feel’ should be, then you must come to the experts! Since I started to work in the area over 30 years ago, I have found the only bagel worthy of the name.”

When it comes to any restaurant, taste and quality are always a top concern of patrons and reviewers. In the case of Bagel Master, those aren’t the only things customers notice. Owner Vadim Nayman says the way you treat those customers is equally as important as the quality of the food.

“My dad taught me that the customer is always the number one priority. You have to make sure they're happy. He knew every customer in this store. He knew what they ate. He knew how they liked it, and he got to know the community. He got to know what most of these people did for a living.”

That example set by Vadim’s father is one he strives to maintain with his employees. He does this through leadership and a willingness to do whatever it takes to make the business successful, even if that means working on holidays.

“How can I expect my staff to be here if I don't lead by example, you know, especially on holidays. They want to be with their families. They want to be doing their own thing. And if I expect them to be here, I have to lead the way in doing so.”

Vadim’s father opened the bagel shop in 1990 after immigrating from Russia, so Vadim grew up in the shop. However, it wasn’t quite his dream to take it over. He worked in several law firms and planned to take his LSAT exam and become an attorney. In the end, the business called him back home.

While he honors and respects what his father built, Vadim isn’t stuck in the past. He knows that in order to run a successful small business in the 21st century, you have to be willing to change, accommodate, and update your menu.

“In terms of menu items, you have to be open to everything. You know, everybody laughed because it was milk, skim milk, and half and half for everybody in their generation. I carry every creamer—almond milk, oat milk. And yes, Starbucks created that phenomenon. But if you don't offer that, then they're just only going to go to Starbucks. So you need to be on top of your game.”

That also means adopting new marketing strategies and keeping up with digital media trends.

“We were actually probably one of the first businesses on Facebook as a business, and people, including my dad, laughed at me and said why? It's a waste of time. You're taking time away from the customers. And what I realized was it's the easiest way to touch base with your customers.”

Vadim used his Facebook presence, and later his Instagram page, to keep his regular customers updated during the early days of the COVID pandemic—making sure he posted changing hours, processes, and what food was available on a daily basis.

In the end, it’s still crucial to provide the very best product you can. Excellent customer service and a variety of choices mean nothing if the food isn’t good.

“I'm giving my customer the best quality product that I could possibly give them. And at the end of the day, it's so important. Quality. An important aspect of all this. And people need to appreciate that from our side, not just the consumer side. I see it lost in so many businesses where people just nickel and dime. People will pay for quality.”

Check out these other important takeaways from the episode:

  • Customer service is key. No matter the issue, Vadim believes he can solve any problem without saying no to his customers.
  • Diverse offerings attract diverse customers. Sometimes offering more options is better for business, as long as those options stay within the mission of your business and are quality additions.  
  • High quality costs more, but customers are willing to pay for it. In the end, it doesn’t pay to skimp on quality ingredients because it shows up in the quality of your products.
  • Using new social media platforms keeps your business top of mind. Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp can help keep customers apprised of any changes in product, hours, or service.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Vadim and Karen, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

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