Bad service – who gets a pass?

My wife and I just spent a few wonderful days with friends in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, Crazy Horse, Wall Drug… it was a GREAT time!  We even got to stop and see my friends Cameron, Vivian and Mark at Rushmore Tramway Adventures (with a bonus ride in the Mammoth)! 

And of course, with great times come great guest service lessons! 

Because it was October, the area was in the wind-down phase of their busy season.  We caught our friends at Rushmore Tramway Adventures on the very last day of operation, and other establishments were closing up soon or were at skeleton staffing levels.

Unfortunately, two experiences stood out with underperforming/unprepared staff members, but they were received very differently.  Here they are – would love to hear your take.

  • Server 1 – mentioned multiple times that she was normally the bartender and was not used to waiting tables. The service at this restaurant was slow and inconsistent.  There seemed to be one ketchup bottle being shared by all tables (5 out 30 were occupied), and 4 out of 6 of our orders were delivered incorrectly.  When service recovery was performed, it was with an air of frustration.
  • Server 2 (different restaurant)- When asked what beers were on draught, the waiter said, “I’m not sure, it’s only my 4th day.”  He was young and timid, hoping against hope to make it to his 5th day. “Could you find out, please?”, we asked. “Sure”, he said, and disappeared.  He came back with a written list. His confidence grew throughout the meal, and when service recovery was needed this time, there was a sincere apology AND a 10% discount on the bill.  In fact, one of our pizza’s came without the pepperoni we ordered.  We were too hungry to wait for another pizza to be made, so he brought out some cooked pepperoni to add to the pizza that had been delivered.

When analyzing the groups’ reaction, it confirmed something I have believed for a long time about service… people don’t necessarily want service perfection, but they do want effort and don’t want to hear excuses.  To me, the bartender telling us she wasn’t normally a server felt like an excuse.

I think it felt like an excuse because she didn’t put forth any effort to overcome the deficit.  We joked that she was probably also responsible for housekeeping, maintenance and renting kayaks at the lake during the summer… and she would have rather been doing any of those activities at that time.

It may be a fine line, but server 2, after announcing that it was his fourth day, never returned to the scene of the crime.  He didn’t use his lack of experience as a crutch. He smiled, answered our questions, apologized for errors, made efforts to improve, and actually did improve, right before our eyes.

Here’s what I find interesting… server 1 was probably in her late 30’s or early 40’s (I am a terrible judge of age), and had a worn name tag, like she had been working at this establishment for some time. She’s the experienced one who fell back on the “this isn’t my normal job” excuse. You would think, hope and maybe even expect that with her level of experience at that hotel/restaurant, that she would be able to jump in to many different positions and perhaps not excel, but at least not act like a fish out of water, either.

By contrast, server 2 was probably in his early 20’s, admittedly in his 4th day of employment at that restaurant, and didn’t seem to possess a TON of worldly work experience.  He was the one who busted his hump to make things right.

And who knows, maybe server 1 was like server 2 on her 4th day on the job?  Maybe she LEARNED how to shirk responsibility and play the victim from the people around her and her – GASP – leaders! Since we know that leaders have a tremendous impact on employee morale, engagement and productivity, she could just be reacting to her environment.

What are the lessons?

  • Cross train early and often – to combat the “not my job” syndrome at the end of a long season, prepare those who will be with you to the very end.  Create a plan to have them ready to take on the new role BEFORE others vacate the job.  Just because it’s the end of the season, it doesn’t mean that training is automatically easier or less time consuming (if you do it right).  When cross training is done at the 11th hour, it can be viewed as a desperation move, and people will be less likely to see it as an opportunity.  Doing it early gives you a chance to reframe the conversation from “oh crap, we have to do this” to “this is what we planned all along.”
  • Encourage effort, even if not perfect – server 2 wasn’t perfect, but he did display a good amount of effort.  That effort needs to be encouraged so he will put forth the effort again. That effort might show up as learning the draught beers by heart or reaffirming the order with the kitchen.
  • Discourage the “victim voice” – Even as you reframe the conversation with early cross training, you may still hear people saying “it’s not my job”, or “I normally don’t do this”. If they say it, they believe it.  If they believe it, their actions will reflect it. There is no need to beat them over the head with “it IS your job!  Your job description says ‘and other duties as assigned!'” Instead, talk to them about their objections… maybe learning a new area brings them back to new hire fears… maybe they have gotten so comfortable (and it’s taken awhile) that they don’t feel they can achieve that level of skill in such a short time.  They need to SEE for themselves that it IS their job (and that it will be okay) before they start telling themselves that.

What do you think? What do you do to prepare your team for the end of the season?

And oh… would you have given a “pass” to server 1 or 2?  Neither?  Both?  Let me know.

Server 2 gets a pass from me.  Server 1?  Not so much.

Thanks for reading!

FREE Event in Orlando – November 12, 2017

Seating is limited!  Click the pic for details and tickets!

Visiting 7 amusement parks in 7 days taught us…

CNC17 (Coaster Nerd Con) is but a memory (and a bunch of Facebook posts), but the lessons learned still linger!

For those who like data, here are a few things to chew on:

  • Number of rides and coasters ridden: 52 rides on 27 coasters
  • Number 1 coaster of the trip (IMO) – Renegade at Valleyfair (especially in the rain at night!) Super fast, lots of airtime, and out. of. control.
  • Total length of all coaster track ridden: just over 28 miles
  • Day 1 of trip in MN – 59 degrees
  • Day 7 of trip in TX – 95 degrees (biggest temp swing on any CNC trip)
  • Total driving miles: just under 1300 miles

So what did we learn?  As I mentioned in my last post, we observed that an old concept is still true: the parks with the more visibly engaged management teams also had the best performing employees.

And the parks where this was most evident were Adventureland, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Silver Dollar City*.

I put an asterisk by Silver Dollar City because while we did see engaged management, there was something else going on there.  Something beyond employees and managers and good guest service.  At SDC, it wasn’t about a theme, it was about a lifestyle.  There was something so genuine about the experience that you didn’t feel you were in a “park”. It’s more like stepping into another time and the people aren’t employees or cast members or actors playing a role, this is who they are.  And for many, this is absolutely true.  For the craftspeople and artisans that line the foot trails, this IS their life.  And others around them embrace it.  I didn’t feel like anyone was putting on a “show” (unless they were literally part of a show) but that they were just living their lives and we had been invited to be a part of it.

While you can’t replicate that kind of atmosphere everywhere, you can replicate the genuineness that people display.  Whether you run a museum, zoo, theme park or FEC, allowing and encouraging people to use their talents and creativity on the job generally leads to higher satisfaction levels for both employees and guests.

Here are some things we oberserva-learned (made that up) during our trip:

  • Valleyfair – speaking of letting people be creative, there is no better way to stifle that creativity than to surrender your safety spiels and announcements wholly to an automated system. Luckily, Valleyfair balances this pretty well.  On many rides, we heard operators using the theme or name of the ride in their speils.  On High Roller (roller coaster), the operator would say, “enjoy your ride on the Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh Roller!” – and they would hold that out until the last car left the station.  At Renegade, they said “Yee Haw” as you left the station.  In both cases, guests were playing along, which enhanced their experience.  You can’t do that with a recorded speil that says the same thing every 45 seconds.  People tune those out.
  • Nickelodeon Universe – It was hard not to be nostalgic both here and at Valleyfair, since I had worked at both places. At NU though, the changes over the years not only included new rides and attractions, but a new name, brand and theme.  When I was there is was Knott’s Camp Snoopy, and it was themed to the woods of the upper mid-west.  It was cool and quaint and really neat.  And while there are some elements of the old park still there (like home plate from the old Met stadium), there are also LOTS of new things to dazzle the kiddies and extend a stay at the Mall.  And that’s when the “don’t do what you’ve always done” lesson kicked in.  It would have been neat for me to see the park exactly as it was when I worked there, but that would have been bad for business (most notably since the Knott’s name was no longer able to be used!).  For any business to survive, they have to change, grow, and adapt.  And that’s exactly what has happened.  The park has evolved to offer new and fresh experiences that keep people coming back.
  • Adventureland – This was our first visit, and boy were we impressed.  We enjoyed the mix of rides, the cleanliness of the park and the friendliness of the employees. It really shows that you don’t need a Disney or Universal sized budget to provide a great experience and excel in all areas of operation.  It just takes a commitment to quality and knowing who you are so you aren’t trying to be something that you’re not. PS – Petunia the Pig says hello!
  • World’s of Fun – Despite the rain (and it RAINED!), we had a great time at World’s of Fun! This was largely due to our tour guides, former IAAPA Ambassador and friend Deborah Burnett and her roommate Koen.

    Just before the deluge!

    They both have a deep love of the park and it’s history, and it was so fun hanging out with them and hearing their stories.  What this reiterated to me was that enthusiasm really is contagious, and that a positive attitude can make even a rainy day at an amusement park a fun and memorable experience.  Don’t let others, or the conditions of your situation, stifle your natural enthusiasm about something… there are others who need to see your example.

  • Silver Dollar City – See above! Oh, and do the cave tour.  It rocks.
  • Six Flags Over Texas – File this under, “you may not think people notice, but they do!”  Okay, so we rode The New Texas Giant a bunch of times on this visit.  A bunch. When we rode it first thing in the morning, there was a young lady with red hair at the controls, and she was there just about every time we rode. Toward the end of the night, she was still there, however this time she was on the load side of the platform where we could talk to her.  As we entered the station, she smiled and said in a humorous way, “oh you guys are back?  Going to the front seat again?”  Apparently, we made an impression – and were predictable! The point is that while I could see her diligently watching the ride when at the controls position, it hadn’t dawned on me that she was actually paying attention to us – so much so that she remembered us and where we sat. Thinking back to my operating days, this really shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  I remember when the same people would ride over and over and again, and it was fun to interact with them.  This also proves that as a leader, people are watching you, too. Your employees, guests, managers and peers – they all notice what you do, even if you don’t notice that they’ve noticed.
  • Six Flags Fiesta Texas – this is where the “visible management = better performing employees” really came to life.  While at the park, we had the great pleasure of getting to hang out with Park President Jeffrey Siebert, Director of Marketing Ron McKenzie, and Admissions/Waterpark Manager Josh Parisher.  And while a bunch of the time was spent geeking out and talking “theme parks”, we also got to observe these three in their natural habitat… talking to guests and employees, picking up trash and setting an incredible example for employees to follow.  One of the first things Jeffrey did while walking us through the park was to straighten a trash can on the walkway.  I found myself later wanting to do the same thing, almost as if I had stepped back into my management shoes and was suddenly responsible for such things.  But what was most impressive was how each of them, at different times, broke away from our conversations to address an employee, usually by name, and genuinely interact with them for a few moments.  We could tell by the employees’ reactions that this seemed to be a pretty normal occurrence, that talking to the upper management was not out of the ordinary. There were genuine smiles and conversations that only happen when a trusted relationship had been established. We also saw this when we weren’t with these three.  By and large the employees were friendly and efficient, and absolutely added to an outstanding overall guest experience.

A quick recap:

  • Find ways to let your employees use their creativity
  • Honor the past, but don’t get stuck in it
  • Budgets don’t determine quality, your commitment does
  • Let your enthusiasm be contagious
  • Be genuine, be who you are, know who you are
  • People notice what you do
  • Visible management = better performing employees (bonus – it all starts at the top!)

For some of you, there could be a few “A-HA” moments in there that you can work to implement.  For others, this may be validation of current practices.

For those of who KNOW this stuff but for some reason aren’t doing it, I challenge to think about why.  Is it you, your team, your company?  What is standing in the way?  What will it take to knock down the roadblocks?  Sometimes it can be hard to identify specifically what’s holding things back.  Let me know if you need some ideas about where to look.

Our itinerary for CNC18 is already in the works! Stay tuned for where we will go (and what we will learn) when we venture out next year!

Thanks for reading!

NEWS YOU CAN USE!!

Did this post get you thinking about how to develop your own leadership skills?  How about the skills of others?

For you:

Attractions Mastermind Group – a small, trusted group of peers who meet regularly to discuss issues and support one another

For your team:

The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program – self-guided 8 week program that helps leaders build skills, relationships, and avoid burnout!!

Jackie made it all better

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on March 13-14, 2015. This will complete the series. For Part 1 “I don’t care about $2, click here.  For Part 2 “Maybe I didn’t exist”, click here. For Part 3 “You sent my bag where?” click here.


After coming to grips with the fact that my suitcase would not be accompanying me during my 12 hour stay in Chicago, I still had to pick up my rental car and get to my destination.  So I boarded the shuttle to the rental car area.

That’s where I met Jackie.

Jackie had a “how ya doing, friend” kind of attitude.  Warm, engaging and genuine. At the risk of sounding redundant, she was real AND genuine!

After the morning I’d had, interacting with someone like Jackie (just on the above merits) was quite refreshing. But the story doesn’t end here.

Jackie pulled up my reservation and noticed that I had booked my car through a 3rd party “bundle” site (like Orbitz or Travelocity). It just seemed easier booking the number of flights, hotels and cars over such a short period.  As Jackie was about to point out, it’s not always cheaper that way.

She had a confused and bewildered look on her face when she said, “Do you know you are getting charged $68 for your car for one day?”

“No, it was in the bundle.” was my response.

“Well then,” she said with a wily smile, “you are going to love me. How does $11 sound?”

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I changed your reservation… I re-booked it directly through our site.  Don’t go through the bundle sites, a lot of times they are much more expensive.”

“Wow” was about all I could muster.  I was amazed at her honesty and goodwill and I began to smile.  Of course I would need a GPS, but even with that added to the rental I was still getting a bargain.

As I returned the car later that day, a nice young man asked if everything was okay with the car.  I told him the car was fine, but that Jackie at the counter was a real rock star.  He agreed and said, “yes, she’s the best”.

So how did Jackie make it all better?  How did she make me forget all the other junk that happened in the last 28 hours. She cared. Plain and simple, she cared about me, my experience, and my wallet.  She cared enough to take action on my behalf.  She cared enough to right the wrongs (or overchargings) perpetrated by others.

Based on the young man’s comment when I returned the car, this was not an isolated incident. He has either seen Jackie in action or has heard other happy patrons say similar things about his colleague.

Thing is, you can’t teach people to care.  You can’t give them a handbook of the do’s and don’ts and expect them to care.  I would imagine Jackie cares because she is a role that allows her to do what she does best.  How many of us can say that?

How many of our employees would care a whole lot more if they were in roles that aligned with their natural talents and abilities?  How much happier would your customers be then?

That’s something that every leader should care about.

Thanks for reading!

PS – I debated whether or not to mention Jackie’s employer, because if what she did was against policy, I certainly wouldn’t want her getting in trouble for it.  In the end though, through her actions she created a sense of connection and loyalty that will guide my rental car decisions in the future.  So, Alamo, you have a great employee in Jackie, and I hope she gets the recognition she deserves for this and ALL of the great experiences she creates.  Oh, and I will always check your website first when in need of a rental car.

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Some people don’t like to travel – Matt loves it! Not only does it provide for great stories like these, but it also allows him to do what he feels he does best – Helping Leaders Lead!  He does this through interactive keynotes and customized training workshops.  Click here for more details or to find out how to book Matt for your next event!

Maybe I didn’t exist?

NOTE: This is Part 2 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on  March 13-14, 2015.  There will be at least 2 more entries in this series.  For Part 1 “I don’t care about $2, click here.


So I made it through security after interacting with Erin, and was heading to my gate.  Being a little parched, I stopped at the Ruby Tuesday quick serve location to get a bottled water.

This is one of those outcropping locations that are connected to the larger restaurant so us travelers can grab a quick bite OR be drawn into the larger establishment for heartier fare.  Just a bottle of water for me, thanks.

As a I approached, I saw the cashier, Aleshia, of the outcrop talking across a wall behind her to an employee from the restaurant proper.  To Aleshia’s credit, she stopped “talking” to him when I came up.  But, she also didn’t actually talk to me.  The dude behind her had asked her a question about vacation time, and she sort of stared at me blankly while processing the sale.  It was as if something else was on her mind…

As it turns out, there was.  As soon I was handed my receipt, she answered the dude’s question as if he had just asked it.  As if the time I just spent giving them money did not exist.  Maybe I didn’t exist?

I have to give slight, and I mean slight props to Aleshia for not answering the dude during my transaction. But I think I would also have to take those props away because clearly her mind was not on the transaction or the sale… it was on remembering what the dude said so she could respond as soon as I stopped bothering her.

If Aleshia gets some props in this situation (even though they are later rescinded), the dude gets negative props, demerits, and bizarro world-kudos.  His behavior should be appalling to any leader of a hospitality or service-oriented company.  He was distracting another employee from doing her job while also very likely neglecting his own duties.  A true over-achiever.

Like Erin though, I can’t say I completely blame Aleshia or the dude.  They get some blame of course because they chose their own actions, but my question is who is allowing this to happen.  This CAN’T be the first time a conversation was held over that wall, and probably not the first of it’s kind between the dude and Aleshia.  So who is there to keep these folks in line?

One of the topics I was speaking about on this trip was visible leadership. The importance of visible leadership was reinforced last year on my annual roller coaster-palooza trip last year, where the locations with the best guest service also had leaders that were out and about and visible… oh, and doing the right things.  Imagine… great guest service and great leadership being tied together??  Who would have thunk it?

Turns out, a lot of people should be thinking it.  You cannot have great service without a great leadership team who is visible, engaged, and has the skills to communicate and inspire their teams.  Leadership and guest service go together like peanut butter and jelly… Batman and Robin… Zan and Jayna… Lewis and Clark… Calvin and Hobbs… Ben and Jerry.

Where would Ben and Jerry be if there was no Ben or no Jerry?  (If you are a fan of their ice cream, you probably don’t even want to fathom the thought.)

And where would service be without great leadership?  The Ruby Tuesday outcrop shop at the Orlando International Airport.

Don’t let that be you.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Matt spent a lot of time as a kid watching the Super Friends (which explains the Zan and Jayna and bizarro world references). When Matt is asked about his favorite super friend or super hero, the answer is always the same.  “It’s Superman, because he can fly.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick proves your argument is invalid

Last week I posted this tweet after a wonderful experience with an employee at my local Apple store.

Nick TweetWhile sending this tweet satisfied my desire to provide immediate and public praise for an amazing customer care experience, I don’t think it did Nick’s performance justice. For his efforts that day (and I am going to guess everyday) he deserves much more than 140 characters.

Here’s the situation… my 4 year-old Mac was having issues.  I had visited the Genius Bar (in-person Apple support) before and had a good experience with the “genius”, but ultimately we couldn’t pinpoint the problem.  When I left that day, the next step (after trying a few things at home) was potentially going to be wiping my hard drive clean and starting over.

I came to terms with this, backed up every last PowerPoint, spreadsheet and email, and trotted off to the Apple Store in the Altamonte Mall.

When I arrived, I took a seat at the Genius Bar, and was quickly greeted by Nick.  He looked me right in the eye, shook my hand, introduced himself and told me he was going to take care of me.

I’m terrible at judging age, but I would guess that Nick is in his early-to-mid twenties.  I was happy for that, because while I don’t like to stereotype, I felt much more comfortable with someone like Nick working on the problem than I would have been if it were someone more like… me. (i.e Old)

Nick went to work, troubleshooting and explaining things along the way.  He made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and patiently answered all of them as if it were the first time he heard it.  Nick moved around the computer and keyboard with ease and speed, never stopping his motion or his thoughts about what to try next.

When he started a diagnostic program that was going to take up to 10 minutes, he asked if it would be okay if he got started with another customer.  He assured me he would be back to finish up, and I no reason not to trust him.

The next 30 minutes saw more diagnostics on my computer, and more time for Nick to help others.  Here’s where it gets good.  Nick was now helping three people, myself and a person to both my right and left.  Normally, this would make many service providers cry for help.  But not Nick.

He would start a process on one computer, have to hold a key down, then shift his body to the other computer, start a process there, explain what he was doing, answer a question, start another diagnostic, etc. This went on and on.  It was like he was three people. It was really a beautiful process to watch.

Much like a symphony conductor, Nick navigated his way through an abundance of situations, guiding us and the computers along with him, ultimately to a successful resolution (at least in my case – I left before the other two were finished).

Once my computer was fixed, we high-fived and Nick wished me a good day and a Happy Thanksgiving.  He was then on to helping the next person…

So what argument does Nick invalidate? The one we make when we say “we can’t find good employees”, “these kids have no work ethic”, “they would rather text than have a face to face conversation”.

Is Nick the norm? Maybe not, but he provides hope that rock stars are out there. But unfortunately, hope won’t help you hire the right people. Hope won’t help you train them properly, and hope won’t teach them to have a good work ethic.

That falls to you and your staff, and if a little tough love is what you need to see what it takes to develop the Nicks in your world, then so be it.

And here it comes.

Stop wasting your energy on what used to be and start figuring out how to deal with the here and now. Your products and services have probably changed to meet customer demand, so why wouldn’t your internal processes change to meet the changing needs of your employees? You may need to look into technology solutions, consider more people resources, or turn your onboarding/training/employee relations process on its head. Can’t pay a lot?  Okay, what other ways can you show your staff how valuable they are? (hint, a thank you goes a LONG way).

If what you are doing now isn’t working, don’t blame your employees… they aren’t the ones who came up with the system that is now obsolete.

Like many of the problems we face, we probably know what needs to be done, but something (most likely our ego or assumptions) is getting in the way.  Could you have a Nick on your team?  Yes!  Could you have a whole team of Nicks? Absolutely, but not if you continue to argue that it’s not possible.

So there, your argument for not having a team of rock stars is invalid.  Now, stop invalidating your team by not putting forth the effort, energy and resources needed to foster a rock star employee experience.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

About the author: Matt is not too fond of going to the dentist, but recognizes that DIY dental work is a really bad idea.  If you see that your people processes are broken, but don’t know what to do, don’t go it alone.  Matt can help. Click here to find out how.

IAAPA Question – What I should have said…

This past week during the IAAPA Expo, I had the pleasure of teaching the Human Resources and Leadership portion of the Institute for Attractions Managers course. At the end of the session, I was asked the following question by one of the participants:

“You mentioned that we need to address issues when we see them.  How do you do that without sounding like a broken record?”

It was a great question, and as I think about the answer I gave, I don’t think I gave as complete of an answer as I should have.  I’d like to fix that.

My original answer (given within the context of guest service behaviors) was that “sometimes people need to find their own groove, and that if they are still within your standards and guidelines, letting them learn at their own pace might be okay.”

I still stand behind that, but I also think there are more factors to consider.  For example:

If this is a safety issue, don’t worry about what you sound like.  Your job is to make sure your employees and guests are safe.  Correct and/or guide as much as you need to.

If your employees are violating standards of conduct (i.e. having their cell phone when they shouldn’t, not adhering to grooming guidelines, etc.), then again you need to be relentless with enforcing your standards.

I think it’s also important to ask ourselves some questions, starting with WHY isn’t this employee adhering to the policy in the first place?

A few of these could be the culprit:

  • They don’t think it’s important
  • They don’t understand how to do it
  • They don’t see how they impact it
  • Others around them aren’t doing it

Similarly, we have to ask; WHY don’t they correct their behavior when we tell them?

  • They still don’t think it’s important
  • They still don’t understand how to do it
  • They still don’t see how they impact it
  • Others around them still aren’t doing it
  • They don’t respect the person asking them to change their behavior
  • There is no consequence for their behavior

If they are not understanding the concept or haven’t bought into it, we may need to look at how we are communicating the information.  If others aren’t doing it or there is no consequence for not doing it, that comes down to holding people accountable – showing them that things will change if they continue on the current path (and it’s very possible they won’t like the change!).

There. That’s better. That’s a more complete answer to the question.  So then what?

If you feel like you are starting to sound like a broken record, look at how that record got broken. It could be a lazy employee, but more likely it comes down to our communication and our ability to hold people accountable to our standards.

We could be the problem, but that also means we are the solution.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

 

About the author:  Matt loves helping leaders find out what they can do to improve their own performance or the performance of their teams. He offers free consultation to see what direction to take, or to find out why you might be feeling like a broken record!  Contact him here to schedule a free 30 minute call.

The guests don’t care

Some of you may have seen an incomplete post that was activated too soon.  My apologies.  Full post is below.


How many times have we heard or said this:

“The guests don’t care if you are having a bad day.  They just want to be served, accommodated, helped or entertained, no matter how you feel.”

I know I’ve said it many times in the past, but I’m starting to rethink it. Deep down, does that attitude make us actually care less about our guests?  Take this out of the service environment, don’t you generally care when another human being is suffering in some way?  What makes the service context so different?  Aren’t we just humans helping humans? Does this mindset breed animosity instead of motivate people to smile no matter what? Along with “the customer is always right”, I am starting to believe it might be time to retire this type of thinking.

By essentially saying, “smile no matter what”, we are encouraging people to be fake. Have you ever seen someone smile who didn’t mean it?  Sure you have, and it’s not pretty.

For those who have been reading this blog for a while, you hopefully know that by saying all this I am not suggesting that we allow sour-puss faces on our employees.  Nay, nay.  What I AM saying is that we may have to look differently at what it takes to make our employees smile.

Communication, support, feedback, a sense of value, purpose, training, communication, innovation, autonomy, communication…

All that takes MUCH longer to master than a blind adherence to: leave your problems at the door.

The Leader

There is a fascinating contradiction to be explored here… because while I believe and stand behind everything I just wrote, I also believe this:

As a leader, you give up your right to have a bad day.

But that’s not fair! An employee gets to have a bad day but a leader doesn’t?

Yes.  By taking a leadership role, you agree to give up certain things and you agree to take on certain things.

  • You agree to be a role model, a teacher, a guide, a coach, and a listener.
  • You give up your old peer group for a new one.
  • You take on the responsibility for the productivity of your area to support the company goals.
  • You give up the right to complain about problems because…
  • You are now responsible for the solutions.
  • And yes, you give up the right to have a bad day.

Remember that a leader goes first.  A leader sets the tone.  A leader is the one that other people are watching.  THAT’S why things are different for you.  And that’s why you need to care about your employees so they will care about the guests – no matter what we think they may be thinking about us.

Think about that! :o)

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Matt has been thinking a lot about guest service and leadership, especially as the IAAPA Attractions Expo draws near!  If you will be at the Expo, be sure to check out all of the education sessions! If you want to hear more about Matt’s philosophies and strategies around leadership, check out these sessions at the Expo:

Theme park or a classroom… or both!

Many of us have heard of theme parks and amusement parks being used as a physics classroom… where students study the dynamic forces of rides and attractions to understand the real-world application of the theories they have learned in school.

Now imagine that principle, but for business and leadership!

That’s Lessons In Fun!  A brand-new kind of training seminar that uses the world’s greatest theme parks as your business classroom.  And it’s not just for people who work at theme parks and amusement parks – it’s for ANYONE who wants to be a better leader, improve customer service and gain a competitive advantage!

Scott Brown and I created the program, and it combines our love of theme parks, teaching, leadership, customer service and business improvement! We can’t wait for you to experience it!

Our goal is not to have participants adopt what other companies do (because that rarely works) but to adapt what they’ve learned and experienced to their own business or situation.

For more information and to register, check out www.lessonsinfun.com.

Thanks!

Matt

Quality service, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder

As I am getting ready to leave for my epic-mega-coaster-palooza-extravaganza tour, I started thinking about what sort of service experiences I would be expecting at the various parks we’ll be visiting. Since a person’s perception of the service they receive is largely subjective, you really could say that like beauty, quality service is in the eye of the beholder.  So I might expect something different than my friends, and we might even interpret the exact same situation in very different ways.

Now, you might think that as someone who writes about and teaches customer service tactics, I would have really high expectations.

Turns out, I don’t.

You might remember a story about Kordell who was a stand out employee on our trip last year.  His behaviors were actually over-and-above my expectations, which is probably why he was so memorable.

All I really want the employees to do is reinforce that I made the right decision to visit that particular business.

So how do they do that? In my mind, it starts with a smile. It’s a cliche, and everyone talks about it, but that’s probably because it’s often the first impression we have of how that service interaction will go. It truly does set the tone.

Second… Engage me in some way. Say hello, how ya doing, tell me you like my hat… Whenever you can do to acknowledge me as a person. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture or a long conversation, but it does need to be sincere, and it helps (if conditions allow) for this to be accompanied by eye contact – but that’s not a prerequisite.

Last month I had the chance to go to Kemah Boardwalk, just south of Houston. There is a wooden roller coaster there called the Boardwalk Bullet. It’s a great ride, but what enhanced my experience even more was the operator who was bantering back and forth over the microphone with the guests, myself included.  When he noticed I had a little strap to hold my glasses on, he made a comment like, “this guy came prepared!”.

When he saw a guest in line with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt, he jokingly said, “No turtles are allowed to ride.”  He never spoke directly to me, but he made the experience much more fun and enjoyable.  I took a few extra rides just to hear what was he was going to say.

The final thing that makes a good interaction (in my mind) is some sort of send off.  “Thanks for visiting”, “Have a great day”, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Just SOME sort of acknowledgement that I chose to spend my time with you.

For example, the other day I was at the grocery store, and the cashier was as pleasant as could be.  The bagger wasn’t exceptional, but he wasn’t a dullard, either. What stuck with me was that when he was done bagging my groceries, there was no, “thanks”, no “enjoy the ice cream”… nothing.  He crossed his arms and looked toward the next customer coming down the line.  It was like as soon as my food was in the bag, I ceased to exist.  I didn’t think it bothered me that much until I realized that that was the thing I remembered most about my experience there.  It was last, and a lasting impression.

So that’s it:  Smile, engage me, and thank me.

What are your expectations?  Do you expect more or less?  How about your guests? What do they expect?

I’ll be reporting along the way on our trip… I’m excited to see how it goes!

Thanks for reading!

Matt


Which customer do you choose?

You may have noticed that my last few posts have been about customer service (this one included). Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting out more, or because there are more situations that happen that I think we can all learn from.  My last trip to Walgreens was a perfect example.

I walked in, and like many establishments these days, the person behind the register greeted me with a “Welcome to Walgreens!”.  It wasn’t particularly enthusiastic or welcoming, but that’s a different topic.

To me, the issue is one of priority.  While I suppose I appreciate the gesture, I wondered how the person AT THE REGISTER felt when the employee’s attention was diverted from their transaction to greet a brand new person in the store. All the time in customer service we talk about engaging the guest and building a relationship.  Nothing says “I care about you” more than a self-induced interruption of your transaction so I can yell across the store to “welcome” someone else.

Somewhere along the line, management said, “we’re going to greet people as they come in.”  Was thought given to the CIRCUMSTANCES when that would be appropriate?  Or, did they just give their employees a directive to follow all the time because they didn’t trust their employees to make the judgement call of when they should provide the ‘entrance greeting’.

I can hear them now… “Well, if we tell the employees to only do it when there are no customers in front of them, they’ll take advantage and never do it.  No, better that we use the all-or-nothing approach.  You never know what employees might do if you let them THINK!

That’s right.  They could just AMAZE you!

To me, this situation also plays out when you have the same person attending to guests at the counter while they are also supposed to take incoming calls. The phone rings, and the person stops helping you to answer the phone. Like the automatic entrance greeting, management has made it clear that the phone needs to be answered in 3 rings or less, no matter what.  So you’ve just created another self-induced interruption of the service experience.

Both of these situations lead me to this question… which customer is more important? The person that’s in front of you or the person on the phone or walking through the door?

And you can’t say both, then willingly put your employees in situations like these.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

But I get it, it’s cheaper to have one person doing both those jobs than to have a dedicated person at the counter and a dedicated person on the phone.  Only you will be able to tell when the disjointed customer experience has impacted your sales.  Or maybe it already has, which is why you mandated that everyone be greeted as they walked in… to give them a sense of welcome and better customer service.  Is that working?  Hmmm….

What do you think?  How does this effect you as a consumer?  What do you think about it as an employer or a service provider?

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: Matt Heller is a dynamic and engaging speaker, trainer, author and coach who builds confidence, courage and awareness in leaders of all experience levels.  He also likes vanilla ice cream with crunchy peanut butter mixed in.