September 15, 2010

Making the right management choices
By Patrick Maguire

Business owners and managers talk a big game when it comes to supporting their employees, but unfortunately, many of them cower during moments of truth when customers are dead wrong. Smart leaders treasure great employees because they are much more valuable than horrific customers.

Workers who have left their jobs consistently tell me their departures stemmed from superiors who failed to support them in the face of encounters with out-of-control customers. Neither money nor lack of advancement led them to quit. They departed environments plagued by low morale, distrust, and weak management.

In addition to being poor leaders, a lot of owners and managers operate without a crisis management plan, leaving them unprepared when unruly customers act out. Many of them simply don’t know how to respond to inappropriate customers. Competent leaders, however, consistently train, rehearse, and role-play scenarios to ensure their readiness for circumstances requiring courage, confidence and decisive action.

Retaining top employees requires strong leadership. When weak leadership persists, quality employees seek greener pastures. When you (owners/manangers) enable and cater to abusive customers at the expense of staff, here is what you lose:

1. Credibility with your employees and other customers: Abusive, sexist, racist, condescending, entitled, horrible customers demoralize your staff and alienate your valued customers when you tolerate, or worse, encourage them. The ‘collateral damage’ can devastate a business.

2. Respect and Trust: Employees and customers alike recognize an employer’s true character by their consistent actions, not their rhetoric. “It’s all good” doesn’t get the job done when push comes to shove (sometimes literally). Leaders who over promise then under deliver at crunch time undermine themselves in the long run.

3. Employee Ambassadors: Great employees attract like-minded, high-quality employees and loyal customers. Businesses with high employee retention rates cultivate loyal, repeat customers. Think about the businesses you patronize regularly; you count on seeing those helpful, familiar, friendly faces every time you visit. Conversely, disgruntled former employees can be your worst PR nightmare.

4. Time: Replacing great employees requires advertising, recruiting, interviewing, hiring and extensive training. New employees often don’t come as advertised, and many don’t fit in or last long. When stellar employees quit, managers get bogged down filling in for them and attending to damage control within the organization and with their customers.

5. Money: Great employees are one of a company’s most valuable assets. Simply put, it’s bad business to lose a great employee over a really lousy customer.

Business owners/managers: Where do you stand on this issue? Do you support your employees when they encounter abusive, disingenuous customers? Do you tend to placate the customer even if it risks damage to the relationship with a valued employee?

Workers: Does your current boss have your back or are they all talk? Have you ever quit a job because your boss had no spine? What was the last straw?

I spoke with a server over the weekend who had a customer in a high-end Boston restaurant pick up his steak with a fork and plop it down on her bare hand as she reached for his plate. The customer had just informed the server that his steak was over cooked. The server refused to return to the table of 13 guests, and the manager on duty did nothing except reassign the table.

Please join the conversation. Thank you.

Patrick Maguire is the author of I’m Your Server Not Your Servant. If you want to hear more about what he has to say take a look at:
Blog & website: www.servernotservant.com
Facebook group: www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=162669757168
Twitter: twitter.com/PatrickMBoston

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  • Patrick Maguire September 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Thank you very much for the post. I look forward to communicating with the diverse community of F&B professionals visiting this site. Sincerely-PM

    PS-Please contact me if you need any restauarant recommendations in Boston.

    • admin October 14, 2010 at 2:28 am

      Patrick, Thank you for your insightful contribution. Looking forward to continuing the conversation about service.

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