Sloppy Drippy

Junk food once in a while doesn’t do much damage to the body. Junk service, though – even once – is hard to recover from. But your business doesn’t have to suffer!

Due to a series of events, I once resorted to fast food options for several meals over the course of a week. With one exception, every single drive-through handed a dripping cup to me. One was so messy I asked for a napkin to clean it up, and the kid frowned at me like I’d offended him.

What the heck? I did my time in fast food when I was a teenager. If I had handed a customer a messy anything, there would have been a discussion with the boss. If I had acted like the customer was crazy or wrong for pointing it out, I’d have been fired. Times change.

But bad service has become de riguer. It’s not just fast food that has lowered standards. It’s also retail stores, call centers, and many service industries.

And consumers notice. Customer dissatisfaction ratings are still at an all-time high.

Let me explain how this happens.

First, we need to quit blaming young employees. It’s not just them – people old enough to know better are acting the same way – as if they’re entitled to unquestioning customers. Which means management has taught them that it’s acceptable to act that way.

Second, everyone wants to save money. Younger people are easier on the payroll because they have less experience. But that’s also a problem: they have less experience. Not just experience providing service, but experience receiving it. They don’t have a solid frame of reference yet.

Third, many businesses focus on the wrong things. Managers are busy looking at reports and numbers instead of walking around and observing. I’m a fan of MBWA (management by walking around). I know leaders have stuff to do at their desks – we all do. But if you don’t regularly observe what’s really going on and model the behavior you expect, those numbers and reports are meaningless.

The good thing is, there’s an easy fix. I like to call it MANAGEMENT.

It’s your business – your people reflect on your reputation. And this is the truth behind the saying that your brand is what consumers say it is. If your employees suck, consumers say it. And that’s probably not in your company mission statement!

First, raise your standards for the behavior of your front line. Actually train them so they know exactly what is expected and what the consequences are if they can’t live up to it.

Second, emphasize the impact of negative word-of-mouth; make sure your people know it takes more than an apology to counteract it. And while the business can absorb the cost of a couple apologies, make sure they know that a pattern of apologies will end up costing them.

Finally, actually observe them in action – be honest enough with yourself to see what your customers see. Then take appropriate action.

– Adina


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