Put your best person forward

The media keeps telling us that are we are in tough economic times; people are spending less and being much more choosey about where they spend their dollars.

And still I am surprised that businesses are putting the WRONG people into front counter and customer interaction positions.

A personal experience and one related to me by an associate underscore this.

I spent last weekend in a beautiful rainforest resort. A very special place. However, the resort does not have its own restaurant and recommends local establishments.

So we booked a table for early evening, at a rather nice restaurant. Set back from the road in acres of beautiful grounds, the furniture and décor was reminiscent of an English pub, it looked great.

Unfortunately our meals were disappointing, one was plain inedible. I gave feedback to the waitress specifically pointing out what the issues were, and got no response. (Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario).

At bill paying time, I asked the same waitress what the response from the kitchen was to my feedback. The explosion was reminiscent of Vesuvius. She was quite explicit as to the error of my eyesight and my problematic nature – correct that – she was VERY explicit, and stated that it was plainly obvious to her I was looking for a free meal! Basil Fawlty would have be struck silent with admiration.

The next day when we were calmer, no longer doing impressions of goldfishes with open mouths, and able to try to make sense of the scene from Fawlty Towers, my husband did his maths. Had the lady given us a free meal as she was determined she wasn’t going to do (say a child’s meal) it would have cost the restaurant $11 in revenue, say $6 in profit.

However she was so inept in her service that she didn’t charge us for our drinks. She cost the restaurant our repeat business plus that of everyone I have personally told since, plus the $50 in drinks we didn’t pay for.

Who in their right minds running a business today would choose to put someone like that in a customer contact position? Her people skills were lacking, her attitude was poor, and her maths was not up to scratch. She cost the business real dollars on the night and potential future dollars in one interaction.

At this point I put in a disclaimer. Yes, a discount of the food would have been a nice recognition of the problem, but a freely given apology would have been priceless to me!

Had she asked me what I needed to make it right – she would have found that out.

A colleague related a story of being refused lunch service at a local winery in a similar manner. We got to wondering if it could have been the same person.

Business leaders and owners today don’t have the luxury of letting just anyone serve customers, no matter how short staffed they are. The potential cost to the bottom line is too great to allow the wrong staff to be in a customer contact position.

If you are in the position where you are short of staff and feel stuck, then put some investment into training the staff you do have so they have at least the basic customer service – people skills.

That said, front office and front counter staff should always;

  • have good attitudes;
  • have a belief set that the customer is the most important person on the planet at that time;
  • place a premium of giving total satisfaction and putting a smile on peoples faces.

We can all forgive ineptitude to a point, where the provider is likeable and has good intentions. Even then our patience wears thin.

Tough economic times require tough decisions.

More and more people are choosing to keep their money in their pockets. If you want to help them to part with their hard earned dollars in your business then you had better deliver the best possible service.

That means putting your best people forward.

Third Sigma International is a Brisbane based Executive Coaching business. Liz Cassidy publishes the popular ‘Liz’s Hot Tips’ weekly updates to; entrepreneurs, managers, executives and business owners. www.thirdsigma.com.au www.beknowdo.com.au

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