Can We Teach Employees How To Provide Extraordinary Customer Service?

My answer is a resounding YES! During my years in business I have heard varying opinions on this topic. Many believe that people either have it or they don’t. Some actually believe it’s genetic. Does it help if you were raised in an environment where service was important? You bet it does. Is a “glass half full attitude” helpful in the process? Without a doubt. So the question remains, can you pull a person off the street who doesn’t possess this background/attitude and teach him how to provide extraordinary customer service? Re-read my first sentence. Now let me tell you why!

Call me a dreamer; I have been called much worse with fewer letters! I believe that deep down inside every human enjoys doing something nice for another human. I can hear the naysayers now, “What about Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or other humans who seem to get a charge out of hating and killing?” I never said that all humans are sane; I just said they can be taught to provide extraordinary customer service.

Just for the record, I’m not recommending you go out and hire a bunch of terrorists to be on your service team! For this argument let’s go with the “vast majority” when we talk about everybody. That way we don’t have to discuss the implications of hiring Osama to work the host stand at your restaurant.

So if everyone enjoys doing something nice for others why is extraordinary customer service in America such a hit or miss proposition? I blame it on us, the leaders in the industry. I don’t think we are willing to take the time to figure it out. We are in such a hurry to get through our checklists; we seldom take time to engage our brand ambassadors (those individuals who have the most exposure to our customers). Hmmmmm. That statement is making me a little uncomfortable, how about you?

Some of you may be saying “Hey wait a minute Mr. Finger Pointer, I take the time to engage the members of my service team!” I have no doubt that some of you do. I also believe that many of us think we are engaging our team members and there’s a decent chance we are not. Here’s my theory…

Many managers are still operating in the Command and Control mode which was a perfect style during the Industrial Revolution. Last I checked the Industrial Revolution ended close to a century ago. Old habits die hard. The fact is you can no longer tell employees what to do. Check that you can tell em but there’s a good chance they won’t listen. Some leaders blame it on “the way kids are raised today”. I say let’s look in the mirror!

I believe it’s about making employee engagement the priority. After all how can we expect our employees to engage the customer if we don’t engage our employees? There’s that uncomfortable feeling again. I think it’s so important for us to understand how to engage our employees and I will save that for my next blog.

So if you are willing to buy-in to the thought that every human (excuse me the vast majority of humans) likes to do something nice for other humans, then you should be willing to hear me out! I’d love to hear your comments. Stay tuned, much more to come on this topic!

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Tags: Bill, Campion, Revolution, Talent, customer, employees, engaging, service


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Comment by Bill Campion on November 5, 2010 at 9:30pm
Bravo Dan you are spot on. Our guest service will never be better than our ability to serve our team. You are so right about the BOH folks as well. We must have cohesive teams that understand the reason we are in business it to provide extraordinary experiences for guests which result in return visits. I agree we need to hire great people. I also believe that we as leaders are sometimes guilty of allowing even our best people to get stale. This is good stuff. I appreciate your insightful comments and look forward to continuing the dialogue. Enthusiastically Yours, BC

Comment by Bill Campion on November 5, 2010 at 9:20pm
Elizabeth - Thank you for your passionate comments. I agree hospitality is a better reference. It's really about more than service. I also like "customer experience". I love your passion for this topic. I also like what you said about emotional capacity. I truly believe that making an emotional connection with a customer will result in increased frequency and sometimes even a customer for life. Please keep your comments coming. I appreciate your perspective. Enthusiastically Yours, BC
Comment by Elizabeth Mendez on November 3, 2010 at 10:12am
Absolutely! I truly enjoyed this post and celebrate the tough examination of looking at ourselves as owners and managers. While I personally like the verbiage of hospitality instead of customer service, as I believe it embodies so much more in the world of restaurants, I believe that there is no better way to "fix" the breakdown of service in our business than by beginning at the top. Empowering employees is one of the key components to motivating individuals to be hospitable, because just as you point out the "vast majority" of people like to do something nice, everyone has the ability to be hospitable if we give them the tools to get there ... those tools in the mental and emotional capacity of being a teacher, a coach, a leader and working with our employees side by side in the trenches. We no longer manage and own in a world where we can demand our employees to follow us and just expect them to "figure it out" we must let our employees see us being hospitable at every level ... learning, accommodating, decision making, and honest compassion for the guest and those that we work with every day. I too believe we have the ability to teach anyone to deliver extraordinary service, by allowing our employees to see us being hospitable in every way to those around us, thus leading by example.
Comment by Dan Torres on November 1, 2010 at 7:44am
Hi, Bill. A couple of thoughts. Maybe you can teach anyone to give good guest service, but given limited time and training dollars, I'm going to narrow it down and hire folks that seem to have a sense of this already. One of my mantras is "Hire the personality, teach the skill". It can be a high school student who has never had a job, but if they look me in the eye, smile and put out their hand when they ask for an application, they have past my first test.

Also, I think the service expectation needs to extend to back of the house staff as well, not just typical "guest contact" staff. It's all one team, and we all serve each other before we serve our guests.

This may seem a bit contrary, but I think my staff comes before my guests. And I'm not suggesting that my guests aren't important... they are the lifeblood of our industry. But if my staff does what I want them to do because they want to (not just because I tell them to), I believe my guests will get the service and attentiveness I want them to receive.

Comment by Bill Campion on October 29, 2010 at 10:21am
Hey Ty - we are going to miss you in Dallas and not because you make me look good on the dance floor. I'm looking for an excuse to come to the Big Apple. I miss the greatest city in the world. Thanks for your comments bro. Let's hook up soon. BC

Comment by Ty Sullivan on October 29, 2010 at 10:03am
I'll call you many things. Visionary, knowledgeable and even call you on a Saturday evening to see you in a stunning red evening gown! Bit I shall never call you anything with less letters! :-)
Great piece lad! As always you keep the point spot on in a voice we can all relate to! Glad to be in your company!
Happy Halloween!

Comment by Bill Campion on October 29, 2010 at 5:45am
WOW Brooks I love that! You have just touch a hot button of mine. I want to learn more about Nepal and their people. Susan my significant other and business partner thinks part of customer service training should be to serve the homeless! We would do this for lots of reasons not the least of which is for them to realize how grateful they should be for what they have. This is the spiritual part of service that is missing in America. Isn't it amazing that your friend has built an empire by hiring nice people who smile and are grateful. What a simple concept! I often say it isn't more work to provide extraordinary service it's just approaching work differently. Thanks for the comment and the inspiration. I'm going to go Google Nepal to learn more about their culture!

Comment by Brooks Briz on October 27, 2010 at 8:37pm
Great thoughts! I know one thing thing that really helps employees with customer service is gratitude! Most CSR's show up to work, go through the motions, do just enough to get by and are not vested in their performance. When they actually CARE about you and your experience; it blows people's minds.

As an example, I have a friend of mine that owns a sizable portion of Subway's in the Mid-Atlantic region and has built his empire by hiring a lot of people from Nepal. The Nepali people that he hired generally do not have a customer service skills set from which to build from (heck, they can barely speak English) but they are so GRATEFUL for their jobs and believe that they are an integral piece to running a successful operation that they develop into some of the best customer service agents you will ever witness.

They constantly smile, they are happy, they take pride in keeping their establishment clean, they effectively suggest options to the patrons and my friend that runs the stores has often confided in me that it all comes as a result of their gratitude.

Great post!




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