Improving Customer Service

Issue # 58 of 70 




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


The Worst Place to Work: Part II


In part II (continued from Part I), we still find our hero Bertrand, with his same bad attitude, working in the same hotel with the same bad management that brought on his lack of interest in the first place. As I've mentioned in previous articles, managers wield an incredible amount of influence over the lives of their employees--for better or for worse. Employees can be built up or they can, with even more ease, be knocked down. After all, we spend more time at work than at home (or at least it seems like we do).

What do excellent leadership, great customer service and Disneyland all have in common? They are all magical. They are all about creating an environment that generates a feeling of security in the customer while at the same time convincing them that that they are someone special. When service is exceptional, the customer is elevated to a state of total lack of preoccupation, knowing that everything will be flawless. Couple that with a feeling of individual importance and you've got a repeat customer.

When a hotel manager says to his team that they aren't the Hilton or a department store manager says that they aren't Nordstrom's, it is devastating to their employees. It's not as if they actually thought they were the Hilton or Nordstrom's; that's not the point. It's simply that the manager has just stuck a pin in their dreams and completely deflated them all. Why can't they be the best? Each and every employee starts out wanting to be the best regardless of where that beginning might be, from the most humble motel or grungy warehouse on up. They want to believe that they have just joined an exclusive club. They want to believe that they are part of a product or service without compare.

Once employees see that their managers think that their's is just a job, that they believe that their product or service is not special, then this potentially great employee has just turned the mental and emotional corner on work. They just went from the best standard to adequate or mediocre at best--which is just a small jump (or fall, to be more accurate) from bad. Like the old saying goes, "I used to be apathetic, but now I just don't care."

As our hotel employee Bertrand so well illustrates, our employees deserve better. They deserve to be inspired by leaders that care about their work, but mostly they deserve to be treated with respect. If employees really are our most important asset, then we need to act like they are. After all, we have equipment that receives preventative maintenance, why shouldn't people?

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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For more customer service articles, visit the Customer Service series on the new Sideroad: Practical Advice Straight from The Experts.

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