This past weekend, I was playing an old album from one of my favorite musical artists — Van Morrison. One of the songs is called “Coney Island,” and it ends with the simple, yet profound question: “Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?”
That question rattled around my head for the rest of the afternoon, and it set me thinking about the inconsistency we often see in the service we receive.
My wife works part-time at the local hospital, and she was telling me how all the staff were running around frantically to get ready for an inspection of the recently constructed facility. She said she’d never seen so much cleaning being done in such a short space of time. She told me the flurry of activity was exhausting as items were moved, straightened and hidden from the dignitaries about to walk through the doors. I could almost hear Van the Man asking: “Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?”
When I was a full-time employee for Hilton International Hotels, I would, often as a regional finance director, turn up at one of my hotels to see a similar scurry of activity because the health inspector or brand auditor was in the building. As I cast my mind back, I am sure I can hear a distant, still, quiet Irishman’s voice asking: “Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?”
Whether it’s the local hospital or an international hotel chain it seems to me that some workers lose sight of who their real customer is. In a hospital, it is the patients and their visitors not the local dignitaries who’ve come to cut the red tape with an oversized pair of scissors, just for the cameras. In a hotel, it is the occupant of the room; the conference attendee or the guest at the banquet who are the real customers and not the health inspector or the brand auditor.
As service providers our focus should be on providing five-star, gold-level, “knock your socks off” service, each and every time to our real customers. The local dignitaries; the health inspector or the brand auditor should be able to stop by any time and catch us at our best; dressed to our best and with our products, services and facilities all looking their best.
Yes, wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?
I am a raving fan of a franchised bakery, and I love the fact that there are so many of them and they open so early. Their stores are more or less identical; their product offerings and prices are consistent and reasonable and their staff members are trained to ask and say the same things. What I have noticed though is, it’s almost impossible to replicate the attitude of the staff. That seems to be a personal choice based on one’s internal constitution and compass.
Thankfully, at my local store the staff are all friendly. They acknowledge you when you walk through the door. If you have to wait in line, they thank you for your patience. If they don’t have what you want, they offer delightful alternatives. There’s a spring in the step of the staff at my local franchised bakery right here in Awesometown.
Sadly, not so much at store no. 553, some 37 miles east of here. There, all the staff looked miserable. There, no apology was offered for the extended delay. There, a surliness was served up with my bagel of choice. There, no eye contact was extended to recognize the fact that two human beings had just participated in an economic exchange.
When I went back to my local store a few days sooner than my wife allows (as she monitors my bagel consumption), I am sure I could hear Van Morrison through the piped airwaves reminding me of how great it would be if it was like this all the time.
As well as being one of my favorite musical artists, Morrison echoes forward the importance of always staying focused on who our customer really is, and making a personal choice to be of superb service to those who frequent our facilities.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]