Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Same Job, Different Customer Experience. Why?

The next time you fly, eat out at a restaurant, or visit any business for that matter, take a few moments to watch the range of attitudes you see among the front line customer service staff. It can really be quite striking.

Recently, for example, while flying to a speaking engagement I was struck by how completely different the flight attendants’ attitudes were. One flight attendant was all smiles, laughing and bantering with the customers and consistently asking if there was anything else she could to help her customers.

The other flight attendant? Not so much.

There was NO interaction with customers beyond the bare minimum. And it looked like her face would crack if she smiled! (Which frankly I find especially unnerving when I’m flying – I mean, does she know something we should all know – is that why she’s so miserable?)

I had a similar experience recently in Cuba. Part of our trip was at a fabulous all-inclusive resort that included an omelet chef. One of the chefs seemed to go out of his way to avoid eye contact or engage with the customers. He looked like he’d rather be having a root canal that work there.

But the other one? What a difference! A huge welcome with a beaming smile greeted us each morning from this chef, and although he spoke Spanish, he explained how he is learning all the ingredient choices offered up at the omelette station in six different languages to be able to interact with the guests better.  Now guess which chef had a huge pile of tips on his counter each morning?

So how is it, time and time again, you can walk into a business where the employees are doing the same job, presumably for close to the same pay, working in the same culture with the same rules and similar duties, and yet you can experience such striking differences in attitude and customer service? I’d suggest there’s a few possible reasons:

  1. Inconsistent hiring practices. Or maybe no hiring practices? Perhaps management is merely throwing darts at a dart board and hitting the odd bulls-eye? Or they’re willing to settle for bigstock-man-and-woman-holding-frames-w-45029542the next warmest body to amble in with the hopes of occasionally striking gold.
  2. Poor or non-existing training. Whenever I experience poor customer service my first thought is, “Wow, I wonder what training they AREN’T giving here!?”
  3. No consistent standards for customer service in place. Too many businesses are loosey-goosey with their customer service and seem to adopt the attitude, “Customer service standards? We don’t need no stinking customer service standards!”

Those are three possible sources of the problem that deserve serious attention. But I believe the biggest factor that contributes to your success or your failure starts with your employees’ attitudes and commitment to being personally responsible and accountable for their behavior.

How else can you explain the difference? Same job, same company, same culture, same customers….yet strikingly different attitudes that lead to strikingly different customer service experiences.

Which is why companies need to consistently hire first and foremost with attitude and humor in mind, why companies need to coach and train employees on their attitude they put forward each day, and why front line customer service employees need to remind themselves that they have the power to choose whatever attitude they bring to work every day, and remember that the attitude choice they make will affect every aspect of not just their workday, but their entire life!

Michael Kerr, January, 2017. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker and the author of six books, including The Humor Advantage.













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