Improving Customer Service

Issue # 40 of 70 

John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self

Job Hate

How many of your employees hate their jobs? 10%? 20%? It is kind of a harsh question, but can be even harsher if you don't know the answer. Go down the list of your employees and answer honestly. Are there many? Are there any?

What does this figure mean?

Actually, it means quite a lot. The implications of employees hating their jobs are significant to the extent that they affect the quality of customer service. Employees who hate their jobs are most likely to develop the following behaviors:

  • They are apt to quit at any moment. Many are highly sensitive and the slightest annoyance will trigger their leaving.

  • Theft. When employees are not satisfied with their jobs, they see their actions as justifiable, however questionable they may be. Their justification may be that they feel they are owed or they may simply be vindictive and want to hurt the company.

  • They are much more apt to be rude to customers--it's a way to act out their feelings of anger and frustration.

  • They will not be co-operative; they will not inform anyone about problems that they notice, ones that could be prevented and serve to improve the business.

  • Their attitude will rub off on satisfied employees making everyone dissatisfied(This is a phenomenon that I find amazing. How can one employee with a bad attitude affect so many good employees negatively? You'd think it would be the other way around; many employees with good attitudes should affect the bad employee. Unfortunately, that is simply not so).

    Tools to help:

    One of the first objectives that you should endeavor to complete is a termination audit form and a turnover breakdown. The first form is used to provide a summary of all terminated employees. It should have as much demographic data as possible--any facts that you think might be significant. Examples would be age at termination, sex, tenure of employee, quit or fired, direct supervisor at time of termination, location or department of termination, training center, and any other relevant information. What you are looking for are common denominators that can be found and used to prevent further turnover in staff. For example, this research might show that when people are trained at one center, they are much more likely to quit than when trained at other facilities.

    The second form, the turnover breakdown, is to know how much turnover you actually have. Most companies don't have a clue. You may THINK you know, but until you write the facts down from research you're really just guessing.

    What can you do about it?

    Examine all the facts. There are common denominators that point to some specific area. The area will be a specific supervisor, working condition or other problem area that you may be completely unaware of. If you still feel uncertain, form a focus group to help define the problem clearly. Initiate exit interviews immediately. Exit interviews are wonderful tools that can tell you about your selection and hiring procedures, orientations, training, and employee perceptions. If you find that the problem is that your supervisors are bosses rather than coaches, having a coaching workshop may just do the trick. It has worked for Xerox, Coca-Cola and Kinko's.

    The main point here is to address the problem and seek answers. A great start is to pay attention to your employees by asking questions and LISTENING. But your employees have doubtless heard this before so be prepared to back up your talk with quick action. Otherwise you might just find yourself hurting the situation rather than helping it.

  • John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
    Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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    Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.