Mmm…customers or butter cups?

Too often operators recognize employees for the job they do with processes rather than customers.  I recall hearing a perfect example of this from a consultant named Rick Tate:

When a restaurant hostess is hired to greet guests and make them feel welcome as they arrive, she also recognizes there are several other processes that she is responsible for (e.g., completing side-work such as filling salt and pepper shakers, folding napkins, filling the butter cups, etc.).

From day one, the hostess is told how her number one priority is the guest.  So she focuses on greeting guests as they arrive to make them feel welcome and then, as they depart, thanking them for their business and inviting them to return.  When the manager then emerges from his office and sees that she is behind on her side-work, what do you suppose happens?  Right.  He doesn’t recognize the job she’s done making customers feel welcome and appreciated.  Heck, he may not have even observed those interactions.  Instead he points out what he can see—that the butter cups need to be filled!

Over time the hostess learns that if she’s going to win with this manager, she had better make sure the butter cups are filled!  So now, instead of being a welcoming, guest-focused first impression at the hostess stand, she is primarily focused on completing her side-work.  In this scenario, the customer becomes an interruption in her job as opposed to the reason for it!

Now, guest interactions with this hostess are rushed, stressed, and decidedly uninviting.  We’ve all experienced it.  In these situations it’s easy to blame the hostess for being preoccupied, indifferent, or even rude.  But then I wonder how often the enthusiasm and personality for which most guest contact employees are hired has been unwittingly stifled by the process-focused environments in which they work?

How about you?  What are your company’s “butter cups” and how might they be contradicting your organizations true priorities?

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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