Improving Customer Service

Issue # 61 of 70 

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

Managing Management

Is there a difference between the management of today and that of yesterday?
-Hell yes, there is.
Is there a difference between the management of yesterday and that of the day before yesterday?
-Hell yes and possibly even more so.

My father hated his job and, like most of his generation, he stayed with the same job till retirement. It is hard to imagine that today--staying with a job that you hate. Until retirement. Think about it. It seems amazing, not to mention a bit sad.

That was the scarcity generation. They grew up during the Depression with next to nothing and were afraid they would lose whatever they had made. Security was the generation's by-line; when they started a job, they would see it through. Some call that loyalty. Gold watches were popular ways for companies to express that loyalty but gold watch companies no longer exist. They just don't fly.

My generation didn't see loyalty in the same ways. We grew up with Ozzie and Harriet and were consequently much more secure. We wanted things--many things. We were also willing to pay the dues for them. Work six days a week?
-Sure, if that's what it takes. Work 80 hours a week?
-You've got it.

Things have changed once again. Ozzie and Harriet have been replaced with Madonna and Prince (formally known as, of course). It follows that other things will not remain constant.

Paying dues? What's that? To the local country club maybe, but certainly not for unreasonable working conditions. I don't think so. Do you know what else? This generation might just force many of the service industries to look at themselves and question why there are dues. There is a difference between gaining experience and just being abused simply because that's the way it's been done for a long time.

One might think of a certain famous lady who got married 8 times. She certainly got a lot of experience from all her trips to the altar, but the question remains, did she ever really learn anything?

In my first job in the restaurant business I was transferred 5 times. Once I was moved to an entirely different city after only 3 months. The emotional expense on managers, coupled with the very real monetary expenses, is enormous to companies who still believe in frequent moves. When you add in the trauma that employees face, readjusting to different management styles, it becomes prohibitive.

Take a look at your own company's policies about moves, whether those policies are written down or not. What is the average length of time at one location? Do you know? For a manager to move up the corporate ladder, is it implicit that he/she actually move to another place?

Just say no. Lobby to change the policy and keep managers at one location longer. Customers will get to know the manager. Employees will feel more secure. And there'll be a very important side benefit: companies will be able to actually evaluate their managers by their performance. Time is how you evaluate. Time will cause great managers to shine and it will cause poor managers to be noticed. Frequent moves only allow bad managers to look good by squeezing profits for the short term.

Try it--you'll like 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.