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Lessons learned: Know who you work for

August 20/27, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 5

By Tom Jennings

I recently had occasion to attend meetings in a large hotel in Atlanta. As I was walking through the main lobby, I noticed a bowl of bite-sized candies on the registration counter. Since I possess no will power when confronted by this temptation, I reached into the bowl and took a two-bite candy bar. Upon doing so, I was quickly admonished by the desk attendant that these candies were for “guests only.” Without breaking stride, I flashed my room key to him and kept walking. No big deal, right? Wrong.

This hotel chain takes great pride in it rewards program for frequent guests. It reminds me constantly that I am special to the chain because I have achieved its “top-level status.” (I believe that roughly translates to “you spend way too many nights per year here.”) Hardly a week seems to go by without the chain advising me of another great opportunity to take advantage of my preferred status. I find it ironic that it spends so many dollars per year on postage, direct media costs, etc., to “recruit” my business, only to have some overly zealous guard of the candy bowl at the local level risk offending me for literally a nickel. It’s another classic example of a company having a marketing department delivering a message that the “customer service representatives,” and I use that term loosely, don’t know how to execute. A similar occurrence could never happen at your store, right?

The problem with this scenario is the desk clerk failed to recognize who he was working for. The reality is the hotel clerk likely feels he acted in the correct manner to benefit his employer. After all, the hotel can’t just be giving out candy to non-customers, can they? That would just be a waste of both money and good candy. He was guarding the hotel’s wallet as if it were his own. With performance like this, he might even be awarded “employee of the month.”

Sadly, what he failed to ultimately recognize is he doesn’t work for just his employer. Collectively, everyone in the entire chain works for the customer. After all, isn’t it our money that ultimately funds his paycheck? When was the last time you reminded everyone in your organization of this fact?

Also, since he obviously isn’t a very generous person, why was he placed in the most public position at the hotel in the first place? Was personality profiling never considered before assigning him to this task? He may have been a great employee—just not in his current position. It doesn’t matter whether the product offering is a hotel room or flooring, the companies that best execute the acts of hiring, and then diligently properly train the most competent personnel available for the tasks required, are going to get the largest share of their respective markets.

Imagine the different emotion I would have experienced had the desk clerk held the candy dish out and offered me a piece—no strings attached. I would have smiled and gone on my way with candy in hand.

The net cost to the hotel would have been the same: a nickel. The value of the good customer relations being formed: priceless. Conversely, the probability of me going back willingly to revisit a business that doesn’t seem to care: hopeless.

Make sure your entire staff is making what seems like small change add up to everyone’s advantage. An incompletely trained staff in today’s business climate is a savings that you cannot afford.

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.