Real Service or Lip Service?

by Motivational Keynote Speaker Jean Gatz

Enjoying an evening out with three other couples, Les and I were seated around a U-shaped table as our young chef put on quite a show while he prepared our meal. Then he asked us to hold out our plates so he could serve us. Because he miscalculated portion size as he served everyone else, there was no food left on the grill by the time he got to me.

“Well, how’s he going to handle this?” I wondered. “Maybe he’ll go into the kitchen and prepare something really special just for me.” Nope, I wasn’t that lucky. Glancing at my empty plate and then back at the empty grill he shouted, “Wait! Don’t anybody eat yet!”

Picking up each plate from my dinner companions, he scraped some of their food onto my plate. Then he handed it back to me, smiled weakly, and told me to enjoy my dinner. My friends sat in stunned silence, but I was laughing as I thought about what a great customer service story this would be to share in my keynotes about leadership and teamwork.

When I ask audiences the #1 goal of successful organizations, they call out a multitude of intelligent and creative answers. Then I tell them that it really comes down to this: No matter who you are, where you work and what you do, your organization’s #1 goal is to stay in business. Slogans about satisfied customers and happy employees are nice, but to survive in today’s economy every organization has to find ways to make money and save money while they deliver absolutely outstanding service.

How do you demonstrate that you, your job, and the way you do your job are linked to that #1 goal? For our chef that evening, delivering outstanding service was not a priority. No manager, supervisor, or anyone else in a leadership position ever communicated that this attitude and behavior were not acceptable.

It’s easy to see why communication about service can fall through the cracks. Everyone’s busy. Leaders who don’t have time to train staff assume that everyone knows how to deliver good service. They often fail to follow up to see how that level of service is actually functioning.

Other leaders have an attitude about service that sends a definite message to their employees. They SAY that outstanding service is important but their attitudes, behaviors, policies and procedures don’t support their words. In today’s competitive environment, leaders have to practice what they preach.

“So what’s the worst that can happen?” you might ask. “One customer got treated poorly, and a few other customers saw what happened.” It’s not that simple. When customer service doesn’t measure up, it’s rarely the fault of one person. Everyone is accountable. As service declines, so does customer loyalty. People have lots of choices as to where they spend their money on products and services. And they love to share their stories about bad customer service with everyone they know.

So what IS the worst that can happen? This restaurant is no longer in business – and I can’t take any of the credit. When I relate this story in my keynotes about Getting to the Heart of Success™ I never mention their name. I don’t have to. They managed to put themselves out of business – one customer at a time.

How would you describe the level of service in your organization? Are leaders, managers, supervisors and employees working together and communicating about what’s important? No matter who you are, where you work and what you do, delivering absolutely outstanding service is everybody’s business.


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