Last night, I returned home from a trip to Los Angeles with my family and was contemplating how lucky I am to live in Reno where the service industry is abundant and businesses seem to want my return business. I wish I could say the same for the places I went to on my journey. Sunday morning, I wanted to take my 2 children to breakfast and seeing that we were in an unfamiliar place, decided to trust Google Maps to find our destination. My complaint is not with the map, because we were able to find the place easily with the directions and it looked as though it was a popular place, but there was a huge line outside waiting to get in and we were running on budgeted time. Because the original restaurant was near other restaurants, we decided to simply drive to one close by.
After being seated we sat with our menus, pondering what delicacies we would enjoy with excited expectation. After the first 10 minutes of sitting there, we absolutely knew what we wanted and began to search for attention from waitstaff. Another 20 minutes later, no one came to our table to see if we were ready to order or for any other reason. The restaurant didn’t appear to be overly busy, but employees looked at us and walked away continually. One half-hour was completely unreasonable in our eyes so we got up and left. I wonder if anyone even noticed?
The point of the story is that as a manager, I often see associates who remain busy despite the economic climate. They may be walking hurriedly along, folding napkins (or sweaters), taking phone calls from customers or simply talking to their peers. They work on projects delegated to them by managers and in their focus to complete tasks, forget that there are people sitting there waiting to be served. I don’t blame the associates for doing what is asked of them. It is up to leadership to train staff to drop whatever it is he or she is doing and service the people in plain sight.
We are all in the customer service business no matter the industry. A customer’s time is valuable, and we only are given a short period to make a decent lasting impression. Employees should not look down when walking through the workplace but make eye contact with the public. Give the client/customer the impression that your purpose is to satisfy her needs. If you are busy, it is okay but smile, say hello and offer to get someone else who is not occupied. By doing so, you may be given the opportunity to service the customer and not have her exit still wanting.
As a side note, we found a small local cafe where we had breakfast. The moment we entered the property we were met with smiles and offers for coffee or other beverages. This waitress knew nothing of my previous ordeal and treated me as a wanted customer. Next time I am in LA I will revisit the cafe gladly.