Why do service providers and retailers hire lousy staff?

Another year is under way, with some of us a few pounds heavier, and the holiday shopping is (happily) now behind us. I don’t know about you, but when I look back at my holiday shopping time, I remember more examples of poor service than “wow!” experiences.

5 Tips for Superior Service CultureI recall being in a store 10 days before Christmas morning (full disclosure: I’m not a lover of shopping) where some young, female staff were busy chatting and laughing near the cash register. They were oblivious to a senior who mistook me for an employee and asked me to get her a size. When the lady finally approached a cash register, it was as if they had to flip a coin to see who would lose the toss and have to serve the customer.

Conversely, I had an experience of an entirely different quality after arriving in Rio a few days after Christmas. When I accompanied someone to a store to buy 3 new bed sets, I was amazed by the eager service provider who happily reported that they could arrange delivery in less than 24 hours. As promised, the delivery guys arrived promptly at 9:30 a.m. the next morning. They set up the mattresses and removed the plastic wrappers efficiently, then with a tip and an “Obrigado!” they were on their way in the Brazilian December summer heat.

Whether you have a black belt in shopping or you detest it, you know the difference between the engaged staff member and one who couldn’t care less, and interacting with them can vastly enhance or detract from your shopping experience. Some have pointed out that there are many millenials in customer service positions, but that is not the problem; we’ve all observed great service from some and lousy service from others. This issue is not the generation of demographic of the staff, it’s the attitude and approach.

In a restaurant, a hotel or a store, great service requires these five practices:

5 Tips for Service Excellence

1) Document your Vision for Superior Service.
Go beyond lip service and develop a culture that lives real service with individual accountability to each other. Some departments or retail branches don’t wait on their organization to do this – they simply create tone for their team.

2) Hire the right fit.
Hire people that are “self-engaged” vs “self-absorbed”. People who take responsibility for their results offer a clue for intrinsic engagement. Blaming their former employer, boss or circumstances is a good sign that you should leave them to your competitor. Here is an idea: hire people who actually enjoy helping people vs. people who just needs a few bucks in their jeans.

3) Ensure supervisors/managers at all levels know how to Coach for superior service.
Don’t expect disengaged, lousy managers to engage staff who in turn will engage customers. In fact the opposite is true. Lousy managers will produce unhappy staff who will in turn decrease customer engagement and loyalty, driving them to the competition.

4) Continually ask customers/clients for Feedback on how you are doing.
Keep all staff informed with great accomplishments as well as where you dropped the ball with, noting the “learning experiences” to solve and avoid in the future.

5) Keep raising the bar.
Weed out poor performers (managers or staff) that don’t fit for a service culture. Get rid of the “half milers” and nurture the “extra milers”. Your customers will thank you – with more business.

Hold hands to prevent shopping