By Gina Trimarco, Chief Results Officer
How is it that the employees of the same company can differ so much when it comes to customer service? This is a question of training versus common sense but really it comes down to hiring culture.
I recently attended a client’s annual meeting and awards dinner at a hotel. In advance of the meeting the client me about food preferences for the awards dinner – filet or chicken. I chose the filet.
The client did an amazing job scheduling the evening to move quickly and while we ate our salads the client distributed awards. The banquet server attending to our table said, “Everyone please have your meal tickets out.” I kind of felt like I was about to board a plane by the way she said it. Instant anxiety hit me (since I tend to be a rule follower). Everyone had a “meal ticket” in front of them except me. I responded to the server, “I don’t have a ticket”. She ROLLED HER EYES and walked away. Eye rolling is such a trigger for me as a sign of disrespect. I instantly said to the table “Did you see that?!”
My table mates were a bit stunned by the server’s flippant attitude. And having seen me speak and train earlier in the day, all of their eyes were on me, waiting for my reaction. I looked around and said, “Where did everyone get their meal tickets from?” Someone told me who was in charge of distributing the tickets. No big deal. I could see her at the stage helping with the awards. I wasn’t about to bother her over something that would work itself out, right? I mean the hotel knew exactly how many meals to serve based on the client’s advanced planning.
Eventually my meal arrived after someone at the table gave me his meal ticket. Ironically the servers weren’t actually collecting the tickets and we all laughed about this. So at this point I just assumed that the ticket requirement was to help the servers in determining who got what meal.
Five minutes into eating my luke warm filet the server approached me (and me only) and said, “How’s your steak?” At that moment I kind of felt bad for being angry with her as it appeared that she now cared about me. I responded, “Very good. Thank you.”
She continued, “I had to get special permission from my supervisor to get your steak for you because you didn’t have a meal ticket.” My anger returned. Was THAT comment really necessary, especially in front of clients? Like I was some kind of third class citizen to be shunned, as if I didn’t deserve a meal. To maintain my professionalism, I simply responded with “Yes ma’am”, which is how I’ve been taught to speak in the South.
Of course the rest of the table was once again shocked and some questioned if I would do anything. “Of course I will,” I said. Next time the server came by I asked to see her supervisor. Not only did she not flinch she did not inquire why I needed a supervisor. Eventually the supervisor who looked lost the whole night came over. I handed him a meal ticket that I retrieved from the client and told the supervisor what happened. He was clueless and didn’t say much, other than “We’re required to collect the tickets” and yet they never collected the tickets. The only ticket that physically collected was MINE … because I insisted they do so.
This situation is all kinds of wrong. No empowerment for the employees. No common sense or critical thinking. No clue. I also watched these employees put hot meals down at empty seats while our table of people waited to be served.
The next morning, I went to breakfast as I did the morning before in the hotel restaurant. I had struck up a rapport with the restaurant staff and they remembered me upon my return (which is always so refreshing). When it was time for me to pay my bill the server said, “Do you have a buffet ticket again?” And I said, “No, I had one only for yesterday’s breakfast.” To which she responded, “Hold on a second.”
She walked away and when she came back she said, “I got you a buffet ticket. You’re good.” Wow! Just like that the employee bent the rules to give great service. She didn’t need to do what she did. I wasn’t entitled to the free breakfast like I was supposed to get my dinner the night before.
Same company. Different service. Clearly a departmental training, management and culture issue. I’d love to spend time with this company to find out why some departments give great service while others frankly suck at service.
Sometimes all it takes is some common sense, which is hard to teach. Thus, what’s most important is hiring the right people who come skilled with this innate ability. Not an easy task. But if you hire someone and they fail it’s now your responsibility to give them the tools to succeed.
ABOUT THE POST AUTHOR
Gina Trimarco, Chief Results Officer, knows how to pivot to profits from problems and find joy through the process. Her philosophy is that performance pays and people need to be trained to perform on the stage of business to achieve results.
Gina successfully pivoted her coaching firm, Gina and Company, into the new Pivot10 Results, a training and development company that helps business teams to quickly adapt their communications and engagement skills in leadership, customer and sales to achieve results by providing them experiential learning tools and strategies.