In Customer Service, You Are Always On Stage

I am sitting in my local coffee shop (a big brand, not Sbux) and wondering what I want to blog about. I am the only customer sitting in here on a Saturday afternoon, so perhaps the employees forgot about me.  What disturbs me is the LOUD conversation I am hearing behind the counter.

“Wow, can you believe three limos of high school students pulled up the other night after their dance and we had to make a whole bunch of lattes, iced teas, and frozen drinks? It took forever to close!”

“Some huge PTA group came in the other day at 8:30 pm and promised they would help put the chairs back when they were done. They finally left at 9 pm, and the place was a mess.  We didn’t get out of there for ages that night. How rude.”

“Julie was in here and was so drunk, we closed the doors early and put chairs in front of them so no one would come in.”

I am very tempted to stand up and say, “Hey, guys and gals, I write a blog on the customer experience, and I am not too impressed right now!”

I don’t think they realize that every word they are saying reflects on the business. They don’t seem to want to put in a little extra effort to service large orders late at night because it inconveniences them. They don’t seem to be glad that I am here at all; they are too busy with their own “social hour” behind the counter.

You’re On Stage

You can spend a lot of money building up your brand and creating a cool logo. You can market the latest coffee drinks and specials to all your local customers. You can build a fabulous customer loyalty program to reward your best customers.  However, if your employess are not doing their part to support the business, it is all a waste of money.

Great customer service happens every minute, even when no one seems to be looking. At Disneyland, they call their employees Cast Members (CMs) and tell them they are “on stage” whenever they go into any area where their customers (guests) can see or hear them.  A customer’s perception is a critical part of whether their experience is positive or negative.  Every employee contributes to that perception, every minute, regardless of whether they are behind the counter, a rep on the phone, or a member of the cleaning staff.  On that last item, even the janitorial staff at Disney participates in one of the park’s most popular activities, Pin Trading; check out this post from a Disney discussion forum:

At WDW (Walt Disney World) even the janitor CMs had pin lanyards on. The best places we found for pins was at Crystal Palace and Cosmic Ray’s. The manager at Cosmic Ray’s actually got on his radio and requested that all CMs that had lanyards and were available to please come over so a young man could trade with them. Talk about some pixie dust!

Customers Rock! take: Treat your employees like gold, and they will take care of your customers. Hire customer service employees who are people with a passion for serving others.  And remind them all that anytime they are potentially visible or within earshot of customers, they are still “on stage”!

(Photo credit: argus456)

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24 Responses

  1. I think an underlying problem that leads to poor service is that retailers do not reward employees when they are successful, and therefore the main goals of the employee do not include trying to grow sales. Most employees in retail work for a flat wage, so there is no incentive to encourage them to want to stay late or serve a large group.

  2. Spot on! Becky. The fault doesn’t really lie with those employees who were treating you as if you were a distraction. It lies with the owner of that coffee shop who hasn’t taken the time to create a customer experience worthy of loyalty, then hiring & training employees to deliver that experience.

  3. Hi Becky.

    Great post. It all comes down to the Peter Senge quote, “I can’t hear what you are saying, your actions speak too loudly”. Something is obviously amiss in your local coffee shop. Time to go elsewhere.

    I am not so sure that Charles’ suggestion of simly aligning staff rewards to drive desired outcomes by itself is enough. Surely this is more about ‘authenticity in behaviour’ than about artificially rewarding certain outcomes and hoping that appropriate behaviour develops. Or about scripting behaviour down to the last plastic smile.

    It is all too easy as a customer-facing staffer to become cynical about ‘stupid customers’. But it costs no more energy to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and to be customer-oriented. Isn’t that what we all expect when we leave our own customers behind and go out there as anonymous customers in the hope of receiving decent service from others.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager
    And Customer!

  4. Becky, Good Morning,
    What an excellent real life example, and a message to all of us, to Jay’s point who have employees in our organization, that we need to expend the time to properly train and understand proper customer etiquette, including refreshers. I also believe that how our own employees act and react to customer service is an extension of is who is leading and managing them. Irrespective of how large or small the organization, culture exists and strong or poor leadership blankets every organization.

  5. Becky Carroll

    Charles, those managers/retail owners wanting more than just an “hourly” customer experience need to motivate their employees to achieve the desired behaviors; we can expect what we inspect. That, coupled with hiring people with the right attitude/aptitude, will greatly improve the overall employee interactions. I worked in retail as a young person (these employees were mostly high school students), and I thoroughly enjoyed serving customers and always did it with a smile and a desire to create the best experience possible. It had nothing to do with my pay and everything to do with my attitude. Thanks for your comment!

    Jay, you are right, one cannot expect the desired customer experience to “just happen”, even with the right employees. The business/franchise owner needs to create a strategy to make sure customers are taken care of and experience great service and a good product.

    Graham, I do plan to go elsewhere! :) However, my issue here wasn’t really about the service; while they interacted directly with me, the service was fine (not stellar, but fine). The employees just didn’t seem to care about how they were acting when their “official interaction” was over. I do agree with you that it is critical to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and treat them as you would like to be treated!

    Eric, glad to have you so active here at Customers Rock! Culture, leadership, and employee attitudes, along with the right incentives, are all ingredients in customer service success. Let us know if you have some good tips that have worked at Urbane Apartments, as you have a great reputation for a fabulous customer experience!

    By the way, I will be at Disneyland next week for the Customers 1st! Conference, so stay tuned for tips from some other customer service champions. :)

  6. In my Italian experience, I can say that many companies forget to embrace their employees, especially in hard times like these.
    It’s very hard, in our marketplace, to convince company that a strong customer loyalty needs also a strong employees loyalty!

  7. I wonder if there is a better way to talk about this than “customer experience” or “customer service”. When we work with clients I’ve been appalled to see that great service translates to “more work for me and a real pain in the ****”.

    It seems that everyone has had a crummy experience, everyone knows what a great one is – but they are not providing it.

    We’ve been experimenting with a program that encourages people to act as hosts, and getting some good response. Our clients are more open to change when they self-assess bad service as letting down or not honoring their guests – we’ve been getting positive feedback on this from people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds too.

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  9. Good point about wasting dollars if your employees do not reflect the overall message. If they don’t communicate the same message, their dissonant message crowds out anything you’re trying to do.

  10. Nice post!
    In The Netherlands we (Businesspreneur) work with the service personality as metaphor for the natural behavioural of service employees.

    I agree that employees must be aware of their attitude also outside the official interaction, moments of truth of service settings. The service personality of employees is an personality test for service employees to predict their most authentic behaviour in relaxed and tensed moments in the service setting.

    We see that their natural behaviour is a adequate input to select the right person for the right service job and not to over train employees to do a trick.

  11. I too have had the experience of going to a coffee house or really just about any store when they are getting near their closing time. Its ridiculous how quickly people forget what time the store actually closes

    If they close at 9 its not good practice for employees to treat their customers poorly at 8:45.

    I have spent some time in retail personally and no its not hard top be professional everytime you are on the main floor.

  12. Hi Becky
    This happened to me the other day as well, but on a flight with the crew sitting in one of their cabins. I am sure everyone has seen the “service profit chain” which I think is great. Happy people give you happy Customers. It starts with recruiting the right people and not just employing people as you have a vacancy.

    Colin Shaw
    Beyond Philosophy
    Blog: http://www.ExperienceClinic.com

  13. Becky,

    Congratulations on how you’ve managed to engrave your brand on my brain! Every time I hear a teenage produce guy swearing to his friend while piling up the papayas, every time I hear a snarky office supply store clerk telling a customer on the phone, “I already told you that!”, every time I see bank tellers allowing 77 people in line to wait while they discuss whose turn it is to go on break, I think of you, the goddess of great customer service.

    Didn’t know Disney calls employees Cast Members.
    (My daughter worked at Famous Players Cinemas and used to enter work through the “Stage Door”.)

    I guess it’s true. All business really is show business. Pheuff.
    Author, Step Into The Spotlight!–‘Cause ALL Business is Show Business!

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  16. I have plans to a new small business, specifically a coffee shop, so I’ve been searching the web for inspiration. Reading your posts have give me some great things to think about, and I look forward to reading a lot more of what you have to share!

  17. I ahve told clients before that they are performing an act. The best way to make people feel like they are loved is to act like they actually are. If you act crabby, then people will react the same. If you act excited, that is infectious!

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