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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Customer Service Jekyll and Hyde

All of us are familiar with The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, the riveting, classic novella about split personality. It was wonderfully and vividly written by Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1880’s. It was THE read back then and by many estimations, his most famous work.

But this is a “blog-ella” about the Jekyll and Hyde of customer service. Last Thursday night, we went to a local restaurant where the employees must have been trained and nurtured by Hyde University. Crabby and ignoring, every employee shared the same common temperament, indifference with a touch of rudeness. They did not seem to want to be there, especially on a day filled with terribly heavy rains. There were not many patrons in the establishment because of the storms but we probably felt like most of their customers that day, we were more than willing to go outside without an umbrella for relief. It was our first visit and our last visit.

On Sunday, we went to another local restaurant; this one was also for the first time. This time the staff had to have been personally trained by Dr. Jekyll himself. Upbeat and engaging, not only did every employee exceed expectations, they all actually enjoyed their work. When they ran out of a beverage a customer had requested, they substituted another that was more expensive. We even received a free appetizer just to try it, and we truly enjoyed the experience from beginning to end. We certainly will be back. We are now raving verbal billboards of what the culture of this establishment is all about. It is a fairly new restaurant and is quickly building the reputation for excellence. It just took one visit to hook us forever.

How can one restaurant be so different from another? The answer is very simple. It is all about people. If you find upbeat, friendly people who love to put in a day’s work, you will attract the best customers as well. These customers are the ones who, in a thrifty economy, will be back time and again. People pay for a good time and they pay for outstanding service and entertainment. Major League Baseball tickets are not cheap, but raving fans go and spend money regardless of the economic times. Las Vegas is still an experience that is worth every dime; even if you lose a couple of heavies at the table.

Recruiting, interviewing, on-boarding, and training new employees are expensive payables. A bad employee, there for the money only, is a high cost to pay over and above the monies spent to hire.

Businesses who do not vet their perspective employees, or just hire numbers and take the losses as just part of business expense, are making a mistake that affects the future of the companies they run.

We have so many people out of work. We have much more than the public unemployment percentages. We do not include the under-employed and the people who just give up and stop looking for employment. These are good people. What a pool of talent to have in these times. Find the good ones and hire them.

The successful Jekyll business has no trouble finding good people. Word gets around. People stay and grow. When there is a single opening, it is filled quickly. When Jekyll employees need to attend to a personal issue, they can. And these employees never feel guilty, when they are working, the customers have fun; customers enjoy. Everyone shares in the avenue of success.

Jekyll Service is special. Here are some ingredients: active listening, reactivity, great attitude, problem-solving skills, positive focus, expertise and excellent solution finders.

The Hyde businesses operate with unhappy indentured workers who feel trapped, yet the fear of escape to the unknown is greater than the misery of the day-to-day grind. In a strong economy, the workers leave for better opportunity, but the times are still tough. Often too tough to leave.

Will Hyde companies eventually ”jekyll” themselves into the environment of empowerment and contribution? Some might, maybe, but not all transition to, or move to customer service excellence.

Customer Service is doing the right thing at the right time. Not everyone wants to do it.

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