Fast Food Service? Time For an Overhaul.

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By a show of hands (yes really do this), how many of you went through the drive through lately and were given all of the above:

1.)  Visual acknowledgement (they looked at you)

2.)  Facial acknowledgement (they smiled at you)

3.) Professional acknowledgement (they thanked you for your business)

I’m not seeing many hands.  Figured as much.

Over the days ahead, I’m going to be writing on this very issue…drive-through customer service.  It’s not rocket science, but even with that in mind, the question is still this: why in the world is it so damn hard to get (minimum) good service at the drive-through?

Now, I do understand that not every fast food restaurant offers that same experience (I’ve still yet to go to a Chik-fil-A that didn’t provide me with, minimum, good service and more often-than-not exceptional service).  But there is clearly a problem that needs to be rectified.

And hopefully I can help alleviate that problem.  If only a little.

To be continued…

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Where’s the Passion?

Hands in pockets.  Shoulders slumped.  Expressionless face.  Closed body language.  Basically, everything about these salespeople was screaming, “If you want to buy my product, that’s fine.  If you don’t that’s fine, too.  Whatever, just follow me on my tour as I tell you stuff.”

Watching these people was a terribly underwhelming experience.  Each and every single sales rep from this company was missing a key ingredient from their sales schtick (I couldn’t quite tell if they were asking questions and matching needs with solutions).  That one ingredient is this…

Where’s the passion?  I’ve written about this idea before, but then I see it happen again and again wherever I go.  Lack of passion is a plague and it’s not showing much, if any, signs of improving.  I’ve heard it suggested a couple of times recently that wages and salary caps are to blame.  (Which, of course, begs the question, At what salary can we expect excellent customer service and effort?)  Lack of incentive might also be a cuplrit (in this economic climate, however, the primary incentive should be receiving a steady paycheck).  I have a different theory personally.

Management.  Pure and simple.

Managers, if you want passionate sales and customer service reps (or all team members in general), you need to do three things:

1.)  Train the passion.  Granted, I can’t give somebody passion as if it’s a Christmas present (though I wish I could).  But I can show my team how to express passion in two words: body language.  Open posture and gestures.  Smiles on faces.  “Yes” phrases instead of “no” phrases.  Genuine interest in a prospective or current client’s questions, and wanting to let them do most of the talking.  Train your team on expressing passion…and you could see an uptick in your closing ratios.

2.)  Foster the passion.  Maybe you can’t pay higher salaries or fat bonuses.  (Of course, if your sales team closed more sales, this might not be an issue.)  But you can do more to encourage people to get jacked up on their jobs.  Contests, incentives (doesn’t always have to be about more money…find your team’s hot buttons and get creative), and other morale boosters can get your team excited about their jobs and give them more reason to come into work each day.  Share your vision, your goals, and how your team members contribute to the success of the company.  Try some transparency and trust that they’ll catch on to what matters.

3.)  Model the passion.  It starts at the top.  There isn’t a manager on the face of the planet who could possibly expect his or her employees to have passion for their work if they, themselves, don’t personally model it.  I tell middle and frontline managers to suck it up and show their direct reports their own passion for their work and company, even if the higher ups don’t do likewise.  But upper level managers, if you’re reading this, believe this to be true…if you’re not doing it, don’t expect your team to do it, either.  They’re watching you and will resent you if you don’t practice your preach.  You want them to model passion?  You be the first to model it.

If your team is currently lacking in the passion department, there is no easy fix or turnaround.  But you can right the course of your vessel if it’s off by following these three principals.  It’ll take some time, but the results will be noticeable.  And profitable.

QUESTION:  How can you best model passion for your team (regardless of your position in the company)?

Back to the (Customer Service) Basics

Is there something on my face?  Do I have bad breath?  Missing a tooth that I’ve been previously unaware of?

All of those thoughts and more cross my mind every single time I visit the drive-through and the individual sitting in that window virtually refuses to look me in the eye when taking my money or handing me my order.  If I weren’t for the fact that I’m composed of something (albeit slightly) stronger than sticks and stones, the lack of eye contact might begin to hurt me.  But I think that, perhaps, it really has less to do with me than it does a lack of training or a big picture perspective.

“But Scott, this is not the job I want.  I don’t really want to be here.  This is only a stepping stone.  I’m only doing this because everybody starts out serving up a Number Three Combo with a large Coke Zero, no ice.”  Speaking of, sounds kind of like one of my fast food orders.  Starting to get hungry now.

But I digress.

Yes, I understand that you might not have imagined as a youth that you’d one day be wearing a name tag at Burger Heaven and dropping the fries into the fryer.  I’ve been there myself, I get that sentiment.  You are, however, currently employed there.  And as an employee of the company, positive customer service is your responsibility for 100% of your encounters with each and every customer – both internal and external.  Even though your management might have taken you through the scripted and packaged company line on customer service, it can be challenging to maintain that expectation throughout your shift, whether you’re at Burger Heaven or Al’s Mart of Stuff.

Customer service isn’t rocket science, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in our work that we forget what our job really is – positive customer service experiences.  We (presumably) want to stay employed?  For that to happen, customers need to come back for repeat experiences.  And if they’re not receiving the experience they expect and deserve, they’ll find somewhere else to spend their money.  It’s a process that has caused many companies to close their doors.  Don’t take care of your customer, then somebody else will.

So maybe what we need is to get back to basics.  If you feel like your or your company’s customer service needs to get back on-track, I offer up the following tips:

1.)  Smile!!  That’s right, it’s as simple as that.  When you smile at your customer, you’re showing them that it’s your pleasure to be serving them (a lesson we can all learn from our friends at Chik-fil-A).  It also breaks your own stress cycle and helps improve your mood.  Try it, you may be surprised.  For better or for worse, wear that smile.  Plus it takes fewer muscles to smile as it does to frown.  I’ve never personally counted, but I’ll take their word for it.

2.)  Don’t just tell them – show them.“Well yes sir, the Prune-o-Matic machines are over on aisle 13.”  Awesome, now where exactly is aisle 13?  Where on aisle 13?  I don’t seem them IN aisle 13, now where did that twerp go??  Yeah, we’ve all been there.  It’s aggravating and not very professional.  If a customer is looking for something specific, don’t tell her where to go find it…take her there and make sure she connects with that product.

3.)  Eye contact (just not too much) – The opposite of zero eye contact is akin to starting a staring contest.  You’re not trying to reach into their soul or look like a statue.  You’re simply giving pleasant eye contact and letting the customer know they have your focus.  Even though you have fifty other things to do at that moment, that person has all of you.  When you give good eye contact and your winning smile, the impression you leave on them is priceless.

4.)  For goodness sakes, say “Thank you.”  While you’re looking at him and smiling, when you’ve concluded the encounter, just say “thank you.”  I’m not sure where the art of courtesy has disappeared (unless it’s gone with the missing socks in my dryer), but this absolutely needs to be brought back.  Saying “thank you” is very much a recognition extended to the customer for doing business with you and your company.  They are also an open door to return for more business.  Two words.  Infinite impact.

Nothing fancy or out of the ordinary.  Just simply the basics that, sadly, too many businesses are either not pushing or employees aren’t incorporating into their daily routines.  Spread the word, get back to the basics and enjoy your customers and your work again.

QUESTION:  How do you and your company deliver excellent customer service to your customers?

Mediocrity…Be Gone

I don’t remember a whole lot about his class, but I remember two things about my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Langelle.  First was that his roots were from Nova Scotia, Canada.  And second, he had a saying that he shared fairly frequently in class (hence the reason it has stuck with me some ___ years later) – “Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity.”

Mediocrity by its very nature deals with the ordinary, the average, and at the very least the status quo.  Mediocrity determines that I go half-way on the effort, I go lukewarm on the intensity, and I don’t put forth my very best effort in my professional and person life.  Mediocrity is the antithesis of passion; it is the poison in today’s society that keeps people from truly excelling and achieving everything they were meant to achieve.

Some people are so driven to achieve that mediocrity is a foreign word.  But for the majority of people, mediocrity is a frequent obstacle that they’d like nothing more than to get around.  I would submit to you that there are three ways to kill mediocrity in your life:

1.) Find your passion.  There’s nothing worse than trying to hack away at something in life for which you have absolutely no desire, drive, or ambition to make happen.  Find what drives and motivates you, and pour your creative energies into it.  Mediocrity tends to arise as a result of the mundane…counter it with that which ignites your passion.

2.)  Share your passion.  Nothing keeps the fire going more than continuously adding fuel.  One way to do that is to share your vision and drive with those around you.  You have to be careful about and selective of whom you share this with – there are people who will tell you to get your head out of the clouds, get realistic, or otherwise try to extinguish your passion.  You need a support system to keep you ignited and motivated.  Find that valuable few and keep them posted.  If they have your back, they won’t let you even remotely consider mediocrity.

3.)  Cultivate and grow your passion.Once you discover what your passion is and share the vision with others, then move forward with developing yourself with that passion and seeing it through to fulfillment.  Whether it be starting a new business, completing a project, or exploring a hobby, put your heart and soul into it and see where it can grow.  Devotion equals passion.  When you’re devoted to your passion, mediocrity will have no room to take root.

If you follow these three basic concepts, mediocrity will be just a memory and passion will be the name of the game.

QUESTION:  How do  you beat back mediocrity from your own life?  Share with us in a comment below.

The Difference

I’ve often thought about what it means to be a professional.  Is there any kind of philosophical difference between being an employee and being a professional?  As I’ve turned this over throughout the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is, in fact, a difference between the two.  And it boils down to one simple yet profound word.

Passion.

The word “passion” has become associated with many ideas and areas.  Those in the Christian faith recall the passion of Jesus during that first Easter weekend.  Two lovers experience passion for one another, which typically involves the physical, erotic stage of romance.  But the passion I’m thinking of deals more with that which drives a person to excel and be the best he or she can be.

The difference between an employee and a professional is passion.  An employee approaches his job as a hired hand, somebody who clocks in for a few hours each day or night, fulfills a list of job responsibilities, and gets paid periodically.  A professional can also clock in, fulfill job responsibilities, and gets paid periodically…but they are so much more.  They don’t see themself as a hired hand; rather, the professional sees themself as an intergral part of the organization.  Their job might be done at the end of the shift, but the work isn’t.  The professional strives to be the best, do the best, and produce the best.  She works in such a way that she can sign her name on each and every day of work as if that name is a personal seal or guarantee of excellence.

I had a 6th grade teacher who used to tell our class, “Don’t be satisifed with mediocrity.”  The professional isn’t satisifed with the status quo; to the contrary, she becomes a student of her trade or craft.  The professional seeks to become better in his career or work, not being content to rely on his boss to provide training but also seeking out ways to acquire training on his own.  The reason is simple: they are obligated to give the best return for their company’s investment.  Doing one’s best isn’t just a priority…it’s THE priority.

There’s a lot more I could share along these lines, but for now it suffices to say that the great difference between employees and professionals is a very simple word with profound consequence – passion.

QUESTION:  How do you define “passion” in your own life?