One of the dilemmas a business must face is the “implication of correctness”.
With this comes the trust of the people, whether warranted or not. Business owners are put into a position where they are looked at as being right or correct and endowed with power, esteem and virtue.
“The advertized product MUST be as good as they say or they wouldn’t say it” is something I’ve heard from many people after watching an effective TV commercial. “It must be true; it looks like it will work great”. Automatic validation of a product or service is a powerful force. A business now in the possession of this can no longer “fudge it” or fake their way through.
So how do you handle the implied correctness of your product or service?
Just because you hang a sign above your door and sell a product are you doing all you can to make it the best it can be? If you offer a service do you really go out of your way to make the guest experience memorable? Do you “drill-down” on all the steps involved in the purchase of your product or service, from the moment the prospective customer is aware of you, in order to make them as smooth and direct as possible?
One of the challenges faced by a perfectionist is longevity.
When we are younger and have energy to burn, we can relentlessly work through exhaustion and jump through hoops daily to achieve the perfection we seek.
Usually this perfection is attained solely from our personal labor since “no one else can make it perfect but me”.
But as we move through time we slow down, slow down enough to the point where we don’t have an unlimited supply of energy, not enough time can be spent away from our family or illnesses arise that supply the setbacks of life.
This is when the perfectionist wished that he/she had built a team around him so others can continue his dream of perfection. We can only do it all ourselves for so long. And be perfect for even less.
So have you built your team around you?
You haven’t? So how do you expect your business to prosper? How long can you do it all?
Your customers expect much from you, they look towards that perfection you offer, that you promote, that you insist will happen and that you will provide. But is this realistic on behalf of the customer, of from you for that matter? Probably not. So why do we insist on being perfect and how will you get there all by yourself?
Most, if not all, of our customers don’t really believe all the hype that the average television commercial states or what that print ad promises. But they do want value, they need assurance that their money has been well spent and they desire a customer experience second to none. So how will you provide this by trying to be perfect? You can’t, so stop trying.
Hire the best people, people with a customer-first mindset. Search for the candidates that are goal oriented and “teachable”. You can always train them the necessary job skills but attitude, desire, forward thinking and a heavy dose of common sense must already be present.
Encourage a “group responsibility” to look at a product or service challenge from all angles, especially from the customer’s point-of-view. “What would I expect if I was buying this product?” “How would I feel if I had to wait on hold for 20 minutes just to speak with a live person on the phone?” “Are we delivering what we advertize?” “Is this the best we can do?”
Before long you will be surrounded by a team of like-minded “ambassadors” that will treat your business as their own, for the good of the company and the customer.
Only then can you produce a product of the highest level and provide the best guest experience possible. It may not be perfection but it will be close. And you will not have to do it alone anymore.
Recently I was asked to teach a customer service training class for the new hires of a ski resort.
The seasonal resort just completed their job fair and had their newest set of fresh-faced recruits all ready for work; they just needed to know how to deal with their customers.
In preparation, I met with the resort’s management to find out some information about the new hires, if there were specific topics they want covered and what their expectations were for the class. Here is what I learned:
Job Fair attendees: 200
Employees Hired: 180
Positions Hired: ski lift operator, equipment rental associate, retail store clerk, cashier, waiter, cook, housekeeper, etc.
Employee Age Range: 16 – 21 years old
Salary: $7.25 per hour, the minimum wage, for all new hires
Perks of the Job: Free ski pass for the season
Wow, this should be a challenge!
So after a week of training for their specific job category they will then be expected to sit in a meeting with me to discuss the company culture, guest relations, expectations of service and much more. There would be role playing, word scripts and job related phrases to learn, customer conflict and problem resolution examples, etc. All this for a 16+year old employee. Like I said, this will be a challenge.
The “skill positions” such as ski instructor, EMS and medical staff, bartender, etc., were staffed with older employees, many of whom have returned there to work year after year and are the foundation of the resort. They were not included in this wave of hiring.
Next, I asked for the work history of the average new hire and was told that, for most of the employees, this will be their first job and to not expect much of them. So why did they want me to teach a customer service training class to people that have never dealt with customers before? How much of the training did they expect the new employees to remember or even understand?
Customer service skills are greatly influenced by life experience, experience gained through years of interaction with friends, family, coworkers, and the strangers we meet every day.
A strong work ethic doesn’t happen overnight but is either ingrained in the psyche of a person or heavily trained into them. How much life experience or work ethic does a 16 or 17 year old have? Not much a venture to say.
I laud the resort for giving this next generation an opportunity to work and potentially grow within the company but was that the main reason for hiring this collection of people? Or did they just hire the first, and only, “warm bodies” that entered the door? Out of 200 job fair attendees, 180 were hired so I guess we have the answer.
What was the motivation for the employees to apply for the job? Was it an opportunity to work for a company at a young age with the intention to start their career? I doubt it. Was it the opportunity to serve chicken fingers and fries or clean restrooms to the masses as they come in from a day of skiing? Of course not. Is it their excitement of earning $7.25 per hour with most of their 8 hour shift spent 3000 feet up the mountain? Not on your life. Then what could be the motivation for these youngsters to take this foray into the customer service job of a ski resort?
Free ski passes for the season, what else!
So if this is the only realistic reason for the employees to apply for the job can we expect them to take direction properly and provide the customer service experience to the guests of the resort in the manner that their management and owners expect? Not at all. Sure there will be the young stars that rise through the ranks and provide great service, all with a pleasant attitude, warm welcoming smile and an attention to detail. But most won’t.
Seasonal businesses all over the country are used to this method of hiring; many times they have no other way of operating. Think of the numerous small towns that dot the countryside where if it wasn’t for the local college and its students, there would be no business at all. Then there are the seaside restaurants and shops that are closed all year expect the few months the summer beaches are open. But can we expect more from this temporary staff? Of course we can and must. The customers of any business are not concerned with the challenges you may have in hiring seasonal staff. The customer is not, nor should they be, aware that you’re your business model does not allow for a higher hourly wage to pay the staff. They just want the product or service you offer.
The customers don’t care that you can’t get an experienced employee to work for you when you offer work for just 4 months of the year and that ‘forces” you to hire anyone that walks into your door. The customer doesn’t care that this is the first job your new hire has had and doesn’t understand that he/she will be expected to work for a solid 8 hours each day and can’t be on their phone texting or posting on Facebook every chance they get. The customer expects more than this, they deserve more than this.
The life-blood of any company is the service that is provided by its employees. Sure, a fantastic product goes a long way but if the service is poor, how long can a customer expect to tolerate it?
If your new iPhone suddenly stopped working and you took it into the local dealer, would you except poor service from the sales rep? If you had to send in your phone for repair and it took 3 weeks to get it back would you be happy with the service? If this happened more than once, would you consider changing to another brand of phone? Maybe so.
If your luxury car had to go in for service and your dealer treated you as if he didn’t care about your business or that you spent $100,000 for the car and now it doesn’t work, would you consider dealing with another car dealer in the future? Or maybe even getting another brand of luxury car? You can take your money anywhere; why not take it somewhere that appreciates your business. These are realistic scenarios. Just because the product is good will you as a customer be willing to take poor service?
We must spend time in our hiring process to ensure that the motivation for employment is more than just a free ski pass or discounted merchandise from the business. Our customers expect much from us and only the best hired, best trained and best customer service personal can deliver it. Even if they are only temporary personnel.
Remember that guy you used to work with years ago, the one that was always “burning the midnight oil”, and the one that was driven like no other and was on a fast track to promotion after promotion? We all knew he would “be the boss” someday.
Well it finally happened…he is now the boss. He sits in the big cushy corner office and rules his department with an iron hand. Week after week, month after month he is still blazing a trail for others to follow. Not taking any stuff from his underlings he doles out discipline when needed; a stern warning today, a firing tomorrow. He is known as “very tough but fair” and someone that could lay the law down.
So what happened to him now? Why has he changed? You see, as time goes by, that same tough manager has turned into a softie. So soft in fact that his employees are running circles around him, doing whatever they want. He doesn’t check on their daily performance, doesn’t bother to discipline anyone, budgets and payroll numbers get out of control and he even seems to turn a blind eye to many of the shortcomings of the company’s product or service. So I ask again, what happened? Well, these could be a few reasons why: Burnout Our superstar manager may have worked so many hours over his career that he no longer has the stamina or drive to keep up his past performance. So he does his usual required tasks, walks his department, checks in on the things he wants to and no longer expects the best from his staff. This manager is now just passing time and is no longer a productive part of the company. Entitlement Our manager is so happy he is now “the boss”. He deserves that title. He was the best salesman, saved the company the most money or a litany of other accolades, that he was destined for this position. Now that he reached the top he feels he no longer has to perform like he used to. The hard work is now for his subordinates to do, he will make sure they do it. He seems proud to be pompous and since he no longer has to prove himself for advancement, he will just collect his paycheck…as long as he reminds others from time to time that he is the boss. Meetings I once worked for a new General Manager that thought it was appropriate to hold weekly “all manager meetings” right smack in the middle of the day, from 11am – 1pm. That may be fine for some industries but certainly not in the hotel business! Our hotel had the largest amount of meeting space in the state and thankfully we were busy, very busy. So busy in fact that the G.M. expected us to recite, in full detail, the operational aspects planned for the events that were on property for the week. He wanted to know everything that was going on, who was doing what, and what was happening in the building. Well, what was happening was that each week our staff was left without any supervision for hours during the busiest time of the day. Even the best employees will come across situations where they need assistance, guidance or correction but they couldn’t get it from the management because we were all in meetings!
In addition to this “operations” meeting, there were customer service meetings with HR, maintenance meetings with our Engineering Department, weekly meetings and conference calls with the regional Vice President for each department, budget & payroll meetings with Accounting, etc. It seemed we spent more time in meetings then we did dealing with our staff or customers.
Do you really think many managers will then rush back to their departments and “crack the whip” on their staff? Of course not, there’s too busy rushing to another meeting! Reports Being the boss is great, except for the paperwork! There are reports to be done, budgets to make, “cost-of-goods analysis” to do, marketing research and predictions, inventory to take, etc. The list goes on and on. Oh, where’s “the boss”? He’s in his office under a mountain of paper… Guilt Just because someone is promoted to “the boss” doesn’t automatically mean that he/she is the best qualified for that position. People are put in positions of power for various reasons; they ARE the best qualified, they are a great “networker” and have multiple connections that can ultimately benefit the company, they are the favorite of the even bigger boss that is now repaying his buddy with a promotion. Or maybe the big boss needs a puppet that will do what is expected of him/her and won’t question the decisions made. Do you think he will rock-the-boat with his staff for fear of reprisals? Reprisals that will put into question why he got the job in the first place? Of course not. Just shuffle some paperwork around and be thankful you got the promotion. Wants To Be a Friend Many managers believe that being too stern or strict with their staff will lead to resentment from their team and failure to do as expected. They worked hard to get to this point that they won’t do anything to mess it up, so they want to be the “nice guy”. The same thing happens to parents of teenage children. They want to be liked, want to be the cool parent so much that no guidelines are set for the child. It’s past your bed time and you still want to watch TV, that’s ok. Don’t want to clean your room and would prefer to live in squalor, sure go ahead, I’ll clean your room again for you. Want to stay out all hours of the night, fine. I will just have daddy drive through the neighborhood worried sick about you. That’s bad enough as a parent but as a manager that’s a recipe for business disaster; a disaster either for the company or for you. When you set no guidelines or expectations for your staff, don’t be surprised when it’s your job on the line. “But he was such a nice manager” someone from your staff may say as security is escorting you off the property!
Too many businesses continue to offer a workplace that leaves no room for the employee’s personality to come through.
They must recite a script written by someone that sits in an office far removed from the customer or by a development team that has never been “on the front lines” with the guest.
They think they know better…but do they?
Too much money and resources are spent on focus groups, surveys & varying advertizements. All that is left is a cocktail of words with no meaning, phrases that are cold, removed from any true feelings and fake. Treat me like a person. Don’t recite verbiage from a set of “guest interaction cards” that was just delivered last week and that your manager told you to use. My needs are not listed on those cards. My experience at your business is not dictated by the words on those cards. It’s dictated by YOU.
If I am dealing with a store clerk, or manager, over any length of time, I would prefer him/her to have flexibility in how I am dealt with and be able to show some genuine interest in my business. Deal with me as a person versus the way you are scripted by the corporate offices.