Recently, my husband and I enjoyed a late weekend lunch at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. He usually orders a bento box with shrimp tempura while I prefer the grilled salmon. I always order hot green tea because… well, because green tea is a requirement with Japanese food!
The other day we had a new server. She was great and brought our food quickly. But, when I asked for a refill of green tea, the phrasing of her response was peculiar. So, when the bill came, I asked my husband to check the charges for tea. Indeed, she had charged us for a total of three cups of tea.
When I headed to the restroom to wash my hands, I stopped by the bar (where the servers access the ordering system and print bills). I inquired if there had been a change in the menu. In the past, refills of tea were complimentary, and I would probably change my future behavior if there was a charge for each cup of tea.
Bad and Good Customer Service
At the bar register was our server, another server, and the restaurant manager. He asked what I needed, and I inquired again if there were now charges for refills of tea. His response, especially as a manager, was bewildering to me.
He turned to the girl and berated her, asking, “Who told you to do that? Why did you do that?” She meekly responded, “It was a kitchen charge.” He continued to angrily demand how come she had charged me for a refill and emphatically stated there was only a per person charge for tea.
I was embarrassed for all of us and I left the scene to go onto the restroom. As I turned to leave, he said to me, “I’ll take care of this later and tell her how to do it right.” I proceeded to wash my hands and then returned to the table where my husband was ready to go.
Before we could gather our things, however, the manager came by and said he was sorry. He would give us a $5 gift card or rerun our card. I said that a gift card was a nice gesture. After all, I was only trying to figure out if tea still had free refills or not.
When he returned a minute later, he handed me a $10 gift card and apologized again. We thanked him and made a hasty exit, leftovers and gift card in hand. Honestly, I’m still not sure if he was apologizing for the incorrect charge, his horrid behavior, or something else entirely.
Leadership and a Public View
As I told my husband what had transpired during my conversation at the bar register, he was also baffled that a manager would berate an employee for such a small transgression – and in front of a customer! If you were the manager, what would you have done? Here’s what I think a good leader should do in the face of poor customer service.
- Apologize to the customer
- Provide a solution for the customer (e.g. $10 gift card)
- Hold a one-on-one discussion with the employee in private
- As the employee (calmly) to describe their understanding of the process
- Audi the process by checking how other employees perform the same task
- Evaluate whether the process needs fixing or if the individual employee needs additional training
- Remind all employees of the correct procedures
- Follow up with all employees to ensure that training supports the process and leads to the desired behavioral outcome
Leaders must remember that our behavior is mimicked and mirrored by our staff. And we have to recognize that the system might be broken. A broken system might result in unacceptable behavior, but we shouldn’t blame the person for poor training or incoherent policies.
Good leaders take the time to not only look at symptoms of conflict or error, but they also test assumptions and beliefs in diagnosing the cause. A good leader must sort out the urgent and important to both satisfy the customer’s needs while maintaining strong working relationships. Searching for the root cause might feel like it is more work yet identifying an resolving a core issue will pay ongoing dividends for a long time to come.
Moreover, I have always held a strong belief that there is no place for angry yelling or shouting in a professional workplace. And while the restaurant manager didn’t shout at the young server, his tone of voice and the higher-than-expected volume with which he questioned her practices were unmistaken. He blamer her for a poor outcome and she needed to ‘fess up to her crime. It was a very awkward situation. For all of us. And it was completely unnecessary.
Honing Your Leadership Skills
Leaders often rise to the top from dedication, hard work, and demonstration of job skills. Yet just because you are a good cook, a good server, or a good engineer doesn’t mean you naturally will be a good manager. Leaders need to continue to develop their skills just as technical managers continue to expand their knowledge.
As a coach and leader, I read a lot. I am constantly expanding my knowledge of theoretical and practical studies of behaviors, management, and so-called “soft skills”. I enjoy taking training and learning at organizational networks about new perspectives and how others tackle similar problems.
In fact, my leadership skills and network have grown and benefitted from participating in a master mind group. During our time together, I encountered a conflict and challenge within an organization where I volunteer. I took the problem to my cohort and my peers suggested new perspectives to address the challenge. In this case, they gave me advice that supported my gut feel. Yet I felt much more confident that I had made the right decision after consulting my trusted advisory board.
A master mind group is a great place to test and learn new leadership skills, whether you are a restaurant manager or an innovation director. Facilitated by a trained coach, the master mind group gives each participant time to brainstorm challenges while offering support, encouragement, and accountability to meet stretch goals. Friends and family can help you evaluate ideas, but you can accelerate your leadership experience to a higher level with a group of like-minded, achievement-oriented peers.
Because I believe so strongly in the benefits of leadership development and of a supportive peer network, I am initiating a special master mind group just for innovation professionals. No crabby restaurant managers are allowed! Please click here to learn more or apply for your place at the table.
Leadership and Customer Service
A 2-minute exchange of words. Yet, my inquiry of the cost of green tea taught me so much. I am reminded of the importance of customer service and putting a calm face forward in all situations. Customer service is the responsibility of the leader who much establish an open rapport with all staff and stakeholders. Quality errors can be corrected through diagnosis of the problem and a careful application of process solutions.
Another lesson is that leaders must keep their emotions in check. Maybe this new server had screwed up a lot and the restaurant manager was frustrated. Yet, in front of a customer, and other employees, leaders must maintain composure. Our staff can sense our emotions and identify a bad response, and probably better than we can recognize in ourselves. The golden rule will always apply. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Leadership is built on trust, honesty, learning, and caring.
If you believe in leadership development as I do, you won’t want to miss out on joining our Innovation Master Mind group. I am also now offering facilitation for virtual teams based on my chapter just released in PDMA’s Essentials 3 volume describing innovation constraints and challenges. And in 2019, I will be consulting on leadership based on Ken Blanchard’s fantastic model of Situational Leadership. Let me know how I can help you on your leadership journey. Contact me at email@example.com or +1‑281-280-8717.
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