We went to a restaurant for trivia with friends. Our server was young, painfully nervous and awkward. Her words were robotic, script-like. Except for when she spoke to one guy in our party, repeatedly calling him (and only him) “Sweetie”. Other than her awkwardness, everything was fine.
Until it was time to get the checks.
You’ve been there - bungled split checks.
We asked that the checks be fixed. When we got them back again, we noticed another error with how a discount was split between the checks. When we asked for this to be corrected, the server was obviously flustered but adamant that it couldn’t be done unless it was all on one check. We asked that it be put on one check. She didn’t want to do that.
At about Round 5 in the debate, I started to see the real issue in all of this. She had never talked to her manager about any of it. Not about the messed up checks, not about the discount. At Round 2 she should have immediately got her manager. She was awkward serving us from the beginning and that only became exacerbated during the check conflict.
She never did get the manager while we were there. We paid the non-corrected amount on the checks because it wasn’t worth lengthening the debate. Also, her drawer was probably off because she rounded our change up to the nearest dollar.
All this concerns me. Not because we paid more or that it was an uncomfortable exchange. It concerns me because what kind of environment does she work in that she doesn’t feel comfortable pulling a manager in as soon as an issue arises?
This could all be on her. She could have been illogically fearful of her manager.
But there is likely some role that her work environment has played in this.
When a power structure is in place, one in which a boss can take your job from you, there is going to be a natural fear of authority. But in order to create a healthy culture, a manager has to be careful to not use that fear as a motivator. You can’t force employees to deliver great customer service by instilling fear. That will only stress them out and cause them to try to end issues as quickly as possible.
You can’t maintain an environment of fear and expect employees to act with care towards customers.
You have to serve your employees with your power if you expect them to serve customers with theirs.
In order to create an environment where employees are more likely to serve customers well, try the following things:
First, don’t use fear. Don’t threaten firing in the heat of your frustration. Don’t make other threats. Don’t rule with an iron fist. Move away from constantly laying down the law. Move toward having transparent conversations where your employees understand both their roles and your role better.
Second, be available. Not just in physical presence but also in the way you listen. Don’t cut your employees off and make snap judgments. Hear them out. Also, tell your employees that you are available and want to get involved any time that they aren’t comfortable in a situation.
Third, don’t hurry to hang your employees out to dry. Yes, they might have messed up big time. Yes, you may have to apologize to customers for their conduct. But don’t blame all the business’s problems on them. If the blame game is your first instinct, you won’t be able to create a collaborative, friendly environment for your employees. And if they don’t feel comfortable at work, how will they convey care to customers?
Ultimately it comes down to this - serve your employees.
In order to create an environment where employees will deliver quality customer service - you need to serve them. Your role is not to dictate. Your role is to serve in your unique position.
Don’t encourage a survival mentality in your employees. Generously serve them. It will spill over to your customers.
For more on this subject:
8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses by Geoffrey James (Inc.)
5 Signs That Employees Are In Survival Mode by Glenn Llopis (Forbes)