Upholding the Standards of Service
Finishing up here, upholding the standards of service: So this is talking about your power as leader, your power as a owner. But truly, it is not only your job, but it's really what you're there to do. Your job is to create and uphold the standards of the business. So, in our previous course, we talked about creating a culture of customer service. And that culture comes from you. You're gonna write the mission. You're gonna write the core values. Now, if you're not there to uphold them, who cares? Right? It doesn't matter that you did. But if you wrote it, if you took that time to do that and you've created an intention towards your business, then by all means, uphold them. Respect your business. Honor what you've created. It's really important, you're the only one who can do it. So make sure that you do. Now, one of my first clients was a legendary restaurant in New York. It's called Le Circ, and it's been open over 40 years, and I was very humbled to be brought into that restaurant, ...
cause they wrote the book on customer service. And I learned a lot while I was there. And the owner, Sirio Maccioni, he's a legend in the business, he's over 80 years old now, and until recently, he's been in the business every single day. Something he built, he loved, and has an incredible history. But he would always come to our pre-service meetings when we were talking to the team about the service ahead of us, and he would say, "It takes as much time to do the wrong thing as it does to do the right thing." It takes as much time, and I remember, you know, some of the staff would sort of groan, and be like, "Aw," but in truth, it is the truth, right? It takes as much time to do the wrong thing as it does to do the right thing. And people so often will be like, "Ah, I'm gonna take a short cut." Now, as leaders, we can't afford to take short cuts. Why not? Why can't we take a short cut as the leader or the owner of the business?
[Male Participant] Your employees will take short cuts after you do.
There you go, right? Once you demonstrate that that's okay, now it's okay. You've just taken your standard and you've lowered it, right? The bar that was up here is now, they can step over it. Ugh, right? So it's a message. Now, again, leadership is in public, so your actions and how you do things is gonna be viewed by your team in particular and in your clients as well. They're gonna see it, so they're gonna see how you uphold your standards. They're gonna see if you honor them or if you abandon them. So you need to be careful that we are doing this every single day. So, when you let the standard slide you're making a powerful statement: that you don't care and the standard is false or inconsequential. Now, if you've gone to the effort of building a brand, creating mission and core values, and now you've let something slide, to say it's inconsequential, that hurts, right? Hurts me just to say it, to say that it's false. Well, that's a terrible thing, right? You've spent too much time and money on your business to let it just slip slide away. So, truly the hardest thing you can do is uphold these standards, but the biggest benefit is in upholding the standards. Now, some of my clients, when I do executive coaching, this is one of the hardest things that they have to do. Some people feel like, "Oh, I don't wanna be so tough on people. "I don't wanna be so hard on them." So they feel like they're gonna be too hard if they uphold what's important. Some other clients feel that they're going to have to, they can only do it if they're mean, right? "You did it wrong! Ba ba ba ba ba!" And that feels uncomfortable, right? Some people are just like dreading the fact that they have to repeat themselves. "I have to say it again and again and again and again. "Oh my God, that's not what I signed up for." It is what you signed up for, but nobody really told you, but yet, part of management is repeating yourself. But the beauty is that people listen, and they will make corrections, and you won't have to repeat yourself as often, okay? But the thing is is finding the tone, finding a way that you uphold the standard. Generally, when people are bulldogs, they will get a response for a moment, and then they won't get a response anymore. If you're just constantly yelling and screaming about stuff, people will start to ignore what you say. On the flip side, if you're a pushover, they will do exactly that. They'll push you, okay? So you gotta find a tone that is authentic to yourself, and you've gotta be able to represent with integrity. So when you're upholding the standard, it's really important, I think, to insert yourself a little bit. Like, this means a lot that we answer the phone on three rings, because we've made a pledge to our clients in our mission and core values. So, it's a very simple thing. We've gotta answer the phone in three rings. So who's gonna be able to do that for me, right? You're asking them to join you in this quest towards the brand ideals, and you're giving them the option to do so, right? Who's gonna join me? So, there's all sorts of ways you can do it, but think about how you can include them, and how you can task them with making your business better. Empowerment's a wonderful thing. If you can empower them to make it better, very often they're gonna take it, and they're try to run to the quarterback line, see, I'm not good with sports analogies, but you know, run to the end, then. Run to the end zone. That's what I meant. So, yeah, this is what you're aiming to do. So as a leader, you have to walk the walk, talk the talk of customer service and be a positive role model for your team. When I was very young in the 1990s, I worked in a place, it was one of my first restaurant jobs in New York, and there actually was a consultant who came in to help us. It was my first time seeing a consultant, and he was impeccable. So he came in and he always had like a perfectly tailored suit. He had perfectly shined shoes. It was my first time seeing an Aramis tie. It was like super-slick. But more than that, he came in smiling. He came in with energy. He asked us how we were. He stood up straight, and when he came in, everybody was all of a sudden like, you know? Trying to look good. Trying to like, make sure, do I look all right, right? Is my hair okay, you know? Trying to represent because of the ideal that he presented. It was an incredible thing, incredible thing. He's inspired me to this day. But when you can be this positive role model, he came in with energy every single day. Came with a smile and a twinkle in his eye every single day. And he made us each feel like we were part of his team, his team, and I wanted to be on that team, cause he made that team look good. So, he made it look easy, but the fact is, he was walking the walk and he was talking the talk, and every opportunity he had, you have to seize the opportunity as a leader. And this is the thing, it's about leadership, but it's really about customer service. So again, back to the idea of thinking of your team as your guests, right? Thinking of your team as your customers. So how do you wanna treat the people who are gonna represent you? Treat them well, treat them and show them what customer service means by giving them that treatment. And then they can in turn take care of your customers and clients. Because they know what that treatment feels like, and now they can give it, give it out. So, if you can walk it, if you can talk it, then you can really, really make sure that your team does it. It's when you abandon it, this is when problems happen. This is what I see too many times. A guy that I know is a hotel manager, and he brought me on for a project. And he said something that I absolutely love, but it's so true. If you are on the front sidewalk of your operation, now he's talking about hotels, and you step over a cigarette butt, you've abandoned the entire idea of customer service. So if you're walking along and you just look down, you see the cigarette butt, and yet you step over it, ew. That is a huge message to your team again not to notice, not to care, not to care about cleanliness, not to care about the customer experience. And instead, what he should be doing, is stepping down and picking it up and throwing it out, putting it where it belongs. Cause those things, those are the things that message your intention of customer service. Those are the things that tell your team, "This is what we do here." These are the things that tell your customers, "This is how I want you to feel. "I want you to feel that our place is taken care of, "and I have ownership of that." So, walking the walk is no joke. Walking the walk is gonna help you actually be a better leader for your team. Now, discuss your choices. So, when I say that, I mean discuss why we're making this effort. Discuss why we're making this choice, to work on our customer service, or develop our customer service, or uphold our brand in this way. It's important to evolve and innovate your standards and brand. Now, the people that are face to face with your clients, they're the ones who get the most information about your clients, is that right? You do some sales?
[Male Participant] Yes.
Right. So we need to interact with them as leaders to find out really what's happening, what's happening with the customer experience, what's happening with the brand identity. Do they really understand what we're doing? Do they understand where we're coming from? Cause I think that's really important. And, empower your team to reach up to you, too. There's feedback and there's feed forward. Have you all heard of feedback? Yes. Feed forward?
[Male Participant] No.
Not so much. Okay, so feedback is where the owner, or the leader, is gonna give comments and criticism or whatever to the team. "So, I noticed when you did XYZ you got this result. "In the future, I'd like to see this," right? So feedback is giving feedback or comments to your team who's reporting to you. Feed forward is going up the chain, right? So if you are the line staff, giving feedback to your manager. Now, this goes back to creating a culture, right? Now, you can't just do that, you've gotta create a culture around feedback. And when you do create a culture where everybody is assessing and giving feedback, it actually creates a very cool bond between people. It's cool that your boss can say, "Hey, buddy, I noticed you did XYZ, "or I'd love for you to work harder on this," or, "Well done, you're exceeding our expectations." But it's another thing when you can say to your boss, and say, "Hey, you know, I really love the way "you represented us to the brand, "but then you turned around and you were "very disparaging to Mary over there, "which was kind of a bummer, because "I thought Mary did all right." So, it's your chance, actually, to get feedback from the people who experience you and your leadership. So it's something to think about, because your team, they're gonna know what it's like to work with you as an employee, and they're gonna see you make choices as a leader for your business. They're gonna see you make choices in customer service. I see you nodding, do you have a story to share?
No, it's, it's just very true. You have to talk with your team, and ask them questions, and involve them, -
... they're valuable parts of the business.
And if you don't ask them questions, then they're not gonna give you the feed forward, either.
That's right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I had a client that, we were doing sort of a revitalization of their service, and what we realized is that it was less about the service, it was more about the leadership, and that the middle management was actually a little shaky. And they were shaky because some people had been promoted and given jobs who had never really done it before, they weren't that seasoned, and they weren't that comfortable, they weren't that confident, and so we made some adjustments, we brought in some people, and took some people out, they were very thankful to not have to be the manager anymore, so we adjusted the middle management. Well, what we realized is that the line staff actually really wanted a way to participate in the management of the restaurant in a way, and also get validation for some of the things they were offering. So we came up with something called a wish list. And I think it was an idea of one of the waiters that was working in the restaurant. So basically the wish list was, you could write down a wish, you would say what you hoped it would be, and you would sign your name as an employee. And any other employee could also add their name. So I could say, "I wish we had more of XYZ product. "We're always running out." And then you get three more people saying, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I agree." So then the management, whoever saw that wish, would then respond with an answer. And it was all public, it was a piece of paper, pretty low tech, but the idea was that the manager could respond. The manager would say, "Noted. We didn't realize that. "We're gonna up the par. We're gonna try "to get more of this product. "And we're going to see if we can get it by this weekend," and with an initial, so you'll know who it is. And then what was kind of cool is then other staff members would say, "Yea!" Or, "Thank you so much." It became this sort of live messaging board. And what was cool about it is it allowed the team to sort of be involved in things that were gonna directly impact the customers, right, we need this thing, and the management was able to say, "Yes, I got you, and here's how long it's gonna take." And it actually created a nice bond of trust, because they could see that their messages were being answered, and that things were being accomplished. On the flip side, of things that couldn't get accomplished, there was an explanation. So it wasn't just, "Hey, this would be great," and somebody's like, "Yeah, great." No, it was like, "I would love to do that, "but we don't have the budget. "We're hoping to do that in Q4," right? Or, "Yeah, we'd love to do that, "and we're trying to source it, "and you'd be surprised how hard that is to find," right? But it became this living sort of communication between line staff and management, and between hopes and wishes and reality. But really what it came down to was creating a culture where people felt involved. And people felt they could make an impact on the guest experience, and that was what was so great about it. Cause people could then go around, when they got this cool thing, or this extra stuff, whatever it was, and say, "We did that. "We made that happen. "We made that happen for our guests." Or, "we made that happen internally so we can help them out." A very small thing, but it really made a big impact. I know that when I worked at a very, very busy restaurant, back in the day, they opened up, and it was big, and it was crazy. We evolved and innovated the service again and again and again and again, and that's what I learned mostly from that experience. I was there for seven years, but you don't just rest. You're constantly evolving on behalf of the customer. So in that place, the servers, there were 10 servers on a shift. You would go to the one service bartender to get all of your drinks. So if you can imagine, when the restaurant gets full, there's a line to get your cocktails. And so, as servers, that was me at that time, we said, "Can we please just pour our own wine?," right? One of the main drinks was wines by the glass, and we had about 15 wines by the glass. So instead of the bartender having to pour all the wines by the glass, we were then able to pour them. So they created a ice bucket on the side for the white wines, they created a venue for the red wines, and put all the glasses so the servers could just grab glasses to pour the wines, and that increased the service so much faster. Because getting glass wine is so much easier than getting a full complex crafted cocktail, which is gonna take more time and you need a bartender to do that. So, like little innovations like that go a long way because now guests are not waiting. Now, when a guest is not waiting, a couple minutes here and a couple minutes there and a couple minutes again, now we've increased our ability to get more guests in. Cause people are moving through faster. And the only way the ownership would have known that is because the line staff said, "Hey! "We can make this more efficient." So efficiency might come from your staff. So we've gotta listen to that, because those choices, you might say, "Oh, that's not a good choice," but when you really listen to it, actually might be the best choice in the world. So, try to think about that, how you can evolve and innovate some of your standards. Because at that time, the standard was the bartender does all the drinks, so we do an evolve a standard to, "Well, the waiters can serve some, too," right? So that was actually a huge small difference. Never gets easier. You just get better. That is anonymous, I don't know who that's from, but that's one of my favorites. But this is the thing: you have an opportunity every day to do a little bit better. To do a little bit better for yourself, to do a little bit better for your brand, to do a little bit better for your team, to do a little bit better for your clients and your customers, every single day. One of the great restaurateurs of our time is Thomas Keller. He happens to be someone that I've worked for back in the day, and I remember we had one of these crazy, crazy nights, and yes, in fine dining, you get crazy nights. But I don't remember exactly what went wrong. I just remember at the end of the night, I was the closing manager, and I had to report to the owner that things were not so great, and oh, it was a tough night. And I remember two in the morning, and I sent an email, and I remember going like, "Gulp," to send the report, and I pushed "Send," I'm in the office by myself, and then Ping! A message comes back, and I'm like, "Oh my God. California!" I'm in New York, you know, in California, everyone's still awake, in New York, everyone's asleep. Darn it! So this message comes back from Thomas. Ooh, here we go, bad night, wonder what he's gonna say. And you know what he said? He said, "Dear Kate, sorry you had such a bad night. "What I love about the restaurant business is every day "we have a chance to do it all over again. "Tomorrow's a new day. You'll give it a good shot. "Have a good night." Oh, my goodness, did I feel relieved, and I felt inspired to go back and do my job the next day. Cause one second before, I was like, "Oh! "It's terrible, how can I ever face my job again?" No, every day you have a chance to make it better. Every day you have a chance to do it the way you want to do it, the way you hope to do it. Every day you have a chance to make an impression on your guests and your clients in little, tiny, wonderful ways. So, that's what this course is about. It's about making things a little bit better and trying and trying and trying. And that's what I hope you learned from me today. Thank you for having me.