What can you expect from employees? How much of a difference can their actions make? What impressions will guests take away from a day at your facility?
What Kind of Impressions?
My wife, Susan, and I were in Santa Monica, California recently. We stopped for lunch at a popular, build your own hamburger operation. Short line to get in, as the restaurant was not yet busy. Our waiter welcomed us and explained how the order system worked.
As noontime arrived, the restaurant was packed. Someone other than our waiter brought our meals. We did not eat slowly, but we did not rush our meal. The food was good. Being a former food director, I knew about “table turns,” or making sure patrons were served quickly, without making them feel rushed, but maximizing rush-period seating. The employees were definitely motivated.
We were close to finishing our meal. Sue was in the middle of eating the remainder of her lunch. Her fork, containing the last bite of food, was in the air, equal distant from the plate to her open mouth, when a young female server came up from behind, reached around Sue’s left shoulder and whisked away her plate right out from under her, with no warning. The girl made no eye contact with me, nor did she stand next to Sue and ask her if she was done. Zap! The plate was pulled away while Sue’s fork was in the air. Had Sue accidentally dropped any food from her fork, it would have hit the bare table. Had the waitress bumped Sue in the process, Sue could have stabbed herself with her fork. In the world of safety, this is called an “independent employee action.” We both were stunned – like what happened? I asked Sue if she was done eating and she said, “I guess so!” I retorted, “Now, that’s an example of fast ‘table-turns!’ ” We joked that the restaurant philosophy seemed be to turn tables every 37 minutes and 20 seconds.
The action was so unexpected that we joked about that mid-fork move for the rest of the afternoon. Is there a message here? We will certainly remember that episode for a long time. The waitress’ actions may have been driven by the philosophy of serving customers quickly. This restaurant is part of a chain. Will it stop us from visiting one of their operations in the future? Maybe not us, but it might for other customers.
The paradox was that even though the place was busy, we did not feel pressured by “our” waiter to speed up our visit. It was a unique example of the lasting impression that one employee can leave with customers.
We all want our workers to exceed our customer expectations, but this impression is one you do not want remembered.
What Is a Good Impression?
Recently, I was walking through our park, headed for my office to get our company camera. Outside the employee back-stage door, I saw a mother holding her crying young son. I stopped and asked if he was all right. She said he was a little upset, but would be fine. I acknowledged her comment and proceeded to my office. I got the camera, but also picked up a roll of arcade tokens. When I arrived downstairs, the mother and boy were still there. I approached the mother and handed her the roll of tokens and said, “Here, this might make him feel a little better.” She looked at the tokens. It took her a second to understand what I had given her. Then she smiled and started to thank me loudly. I put my finger to my lips like a whisper motion and said, “It will be our secret.” She was then aware that other families might be watching and want tokens, too, so she smiled and whispered “Thank You.” What kind of impression will that patron take away from our facility and tell her friends about?
What Is The Connection?
Timing is everything. The waitress, working quickly, probably had the best intentions in mind, but she should have taken a few seconds to make sure Sue had finished her meal. In my case, I took the extra time to evaluate the status of the child, and then provide a positive action to the guest’s situation.
Can you teach that lesson to employees? You certainly should try! Employees leaving guests with a positive impression should be emphasized in every training class you teach!