Improving Customer Service

Issue # 57 of 70 




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


What's the Score?


Imagine a familiar scene: a group of people sitting in front of the television watching the big game. Another person wanders in. What do you think is the first thing the newcomer wants to know? If you answered "the score," give yourself 6 points.

Of course it's the score. And it doesn't end there; not only do sports enthusiasts want to know "the score," but you and your employees want to as well. It's only logical.

I have had the unfortunate experience of working for a boss who did not do evaluations. He only did them when it suited him and it only suited him when he could use negative evaluations to prove a point. He never could understand that the success of his managers would have made him look good; he would sooner revel in their failures. He had serious control issues that he could never resolve. How sad it is to basically set your own managers up for failure.

People want to know how they are doing at periodic check points while they are on the journey not when it is over and too late. How would you like to be told to go to some town thousands of miles away but not be given instructions as to how to get there, nor be permitted to use any maps or ask any questions along the way?

The sense of futility, hopelessness and anger that management can cause through lack of communication is beyond measure. This type of (mis)management leads to turnover percentages that are incredibly high with the resulting high training dollars, low morale and low customer service. The culture that this creates is a defensive culture that causes absolutely no original thinking or action to take place at all.

This type of management does maintain its power, but it loses the hearts and souls of its managers. To be successful, companies of all sizes need to foster a secure management team that is fed a continuous stream of feedback and is encouraged to improve. If management neither knows the score nor is not allowed to fail outright, then they will certainly manage to keep their heads above water; however, they will also manage to keep their company from progressing, leaving it anchored to the spot.

I am reminded of a brief, but insightful question and answer session of a successful businessperson.

Q: How did you become successful?
A: By making the right decisions.

Q: How did you know which decisions to make?
A: By the experiences I'd had.

Q: How did you gain experience?
A: By making bad decisions.

Get feedback and give feedback often. Keep yourself and your employees headed for true north without causing any accidents or having to take any detours.

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.