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  • Brian Reynolds

Does appreciation and encouragement really affect Customer Service?

Great Customer Service

I love sharing stories of great customer service with friends and family. I’ve experienced some amazing service lately but sad to say, that service has been overshadowed by not so good ones. My ‘negative’ experience occurred a couple of weeks ago at a familiar restaurant chain. I’m still shaking my head! I suppose I could have swept it under the rug. However, with a training and development mindset I enjoy investigating reasons why it happened and how it can be prevented. More importantly, I relish what I can learn from it.

Job Shadowing Season

As my friend and I were seated at the restaurant I mentioned above, I noticed a pattern emerging. I thought to myself, ‘This must be the season of new hires’. The last few restaurants I visited lately have had trainee servers learning by ‘job shadowing.’ I knew that this method of training can be highly effective, if done correctly. After my guest and I were seated, a very polite server welcomed us with warmth and friendliness. She explained she was job shadowing today and then asked if we would like a beverage. After leaving with our order I wondered where the other server was if she was the shadow.  We ordered the special and made one minor substitution which would alter the price slightly (as explained by our server).

Great Food But No WOW!

The food and service was great. During our meal we paused to compliment and encourage her several times. I was curious however, to know how long she had been shadowing. When she replied this was her first shift, I’m thinking, way to go whoever hired you! The bill arrived and we’re ready to calculate a nice tip then…uh oh! Reviewing the bill we noticed a discrepancy with the price of the substitution. Our server said, “not a problem, I’ll get it fixed with the server I’m shadowing.” Unfortunately, the revised bill did not match what we were told initially. “No problem, I’ll get my manager to fix it.”

We All Learn From our Mistakes

When the manager arrived we knew it would be taken care of, apologies offered and followed by a ‘hope to see you soon.’ The manager was clearly getting frustrated because she could not see the mistake because the pricing of the substitution was incorrect. As I always tend to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone in the service industry, I said, “not to worry, we all learn from our mistakes.” Half-smiling, the manager said, “well, the money will be coming out of her pay cheque!”

Defining Customer Service

Unfortunately, there are numerous scenarios similar to above. These make for great examples for the thousands of customer service courses available across the globe. Smart businesses are constantly developing programs to maintain customer service competitiveness. When I began to think about this past experience I started by Googling ‘Customer Service’ and 370 million results were found. Here are the ones that appeared first:

“Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service.” (Investopedia)

“Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.” (Wikipedia)

“Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business.” (the balance small business)

Many organizations design some exceptional customer service programs and deliver amazing results to their clients. When you begin to look at some of the common denominators and ‘rules’ of good customer service, one that shows up often is, Treat your Team Members the way you want them to treat your Customers.”

Praise What She Did Right

Getting back to my restaurant experience I can’t help but wonder if the manager ever called attention to her new employee by praising what she did right instead of focusing on what she did wrong. Praising specific tasks or behaviors done well results in the likelihood that it will occur again. From where I sat I could see several things that our server did well. I could easily forgive her for not being clearer on the cost of the substitution (which was less than $2.). Is it fair that a new employee is expected to remember over 300 items on a menu during their first shift? The manager missed a great opportunity to demonstrate to me, the customer, how well they treat their employees.

Communicating Appreciation and Encouragement

A few months ago I presented a Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace session to a couple of small businesses. During our discussion the question, “how does communicating in an individual’s preferred language of appreciation affect customer service?” was raised. In their book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace Dr. Paul White and Dr. Gary Chapman state, “Communicating appreciation and encouragement to one’s fellow workers is a powerful tool in influencing your organization positively – regardless of your position within the system.  He goes on to say, “When members of an organization engage in communicating appreciation and encouragement in the ways that are most meaningful to their team members, then good things happen.” Some of these are:

  1. Relational tensions that have existed begin to decrease

  2. The work produced is of higher quality

  3. Employees report that the workplace environment becomes more enjoyable

  4. Customers begin to report higher levels of satisfaction in their interactions with the organization

I Might be Worth More Than $2!

I will not be returning to the restaurant with the good food. I will be sharing this experience with more friends and also using this story in upcoming workshops. That manager may be proving a point with her new hire and the company will recoup their money, but I’m thinking I might be worth more than $2.!

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