Friday, February 19, 2010

You Want Fries With That? Lessons In Service.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about service. Since the economic downturn folks have been laid off, and the remaining staff left to deal not only with the stress of an increased workload, but with the demands of maintaining service as well. In places large and small, service - if it was in place to begin with - has been dropping at an alarming pace. Bad attitudes and poor follow-through are becoming the new normal. Bad service isn’t good for business, your health or for anyone’s sanity. Now, more than ever, great service is needed to turn things around. Great service increases business that can keep or create jobs. It can reduce stress, since being of service feels good. And best of all, it costs nothing to implement. Notice though, I said “great service” as opposed to anything less, because anything less is mediocre and unacceptable.

Why bother?
The first thing one inevitably hears is, “why bother” usually in close proximity to raised eyebrows and a sinking feeling that someone thinks that you might be a tree-hugging hippy. Thankfully I have had the good fortune to ignore the eyebrows, though I have to admit I once did have to hug a tree when teaching a survival class. You should ignore the naysayers too. And here’s why you should bother. Great service makes the experience special. It makes things easier. It attracts better people to work for you. A great service experience makes you better too. Believe it.

Great Service Is So Hard To Find
What makes creating a great service experience so hard? Easy. We don’t know any better since our expectations for service are generally pretty low. In many ways great service is looked down upon. It takes extra effort. It takes novel thinking or coloring outside the lines. Great service is a lot of work, requiring you to stand up, be noticed, talk the talk and be accountable for the outcome. It requires you to set aside personal feelings and make it about the service itself. And there are few rewards.

Provide Great Service
Great service is an opportunity to make a difference. I’m not going to toss around sunshine and say that it’s easy. It’s not. Sometimes, it just plain sucks. But there’s the moment when it all clicks. When you recognize that just because someone is screaming at you and acting completely unprofessional, that you don’t have to respond in kind. That the pain they are trying to inflict on you is pain they are trying to rid themselves of. That they need help and only you can give it. So deliver. At least that’s the way it first happened for me. I hope your first forays are better!

A Not-So-Secret Formula
Fast forward to today. I work to go above and beyond what is expected right from start. Arrive ahead of schedule. Do more than is expected. Leave a little something extra behind. Listen more than talk. Act pleasant, be respectful and mind the details. It sounds simple, but I challenge you to adopt these habits and consistently apply them.

Let me know how it goes!

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