Service Secret #7: It’s Five O’clock Somewhere Else

Five O’clock PM.

The mystical sixth hour within the Post Meridian time convention, the coveted end of the workday, when sanity hinges on the prospect of something tall and strong, proper judgement giving way to subliminal ponderings such as “What would Jimmy Buffett do?”

Many an urban legend has been forged through this premature abandonment of established workday routines, an apparent disregard for the realities of local time in favor of an ill-advised, yet unshakeable belief that it’s always five o’clock somewhere.

While life is not meant to be all work and no play, service professionals who choose to apply this late-day mentality risk more than a loss of productivity, more than awkward questions to answer the next morning.

An absence of focus and effort, especially toward the end of a shift or workday, has a direct impact on customer loyalty, the willingness of someone to choose a return to your business . . . or not.

Therefore, this New Year will kick-off with a review of Service Secret #7: It’s Five O’clock Somewhere Else.

To begin, no one’s to blame for the way we operate society.

We’re pre-wired for 60%, maybe 70% productivity at best. Why?

Because ours is a work week in which we dedicate the first day to amping up, the last day to ramping down, a slow ease away from the structure of performance into the carefree meanderings of the weekend.

People on an alternative weekly schedule continue to reference “my Monday” or “my Friday” even if that day happens to be Wednesday or Thursday.

Given weekly schedules as an oddity, our focus will become the workday, since people tend to apply this same approach to managing the entirety of their shift or daily routines.

While we can strive to re-wire society another day, there are steps we can take today within the service industry to overcome these tendencies and perform at more optimal levels:

Excellence Through Intention

What elevates service, even in a high-end or luxury setting, is seldom related to tangible elements of the experience, but more often a result of Intention manifested prior to the guest, customer, or patient’s arrival.             

A Culture of Excellence Through Intention (ETI) requires every guest opportunity, every interaction to be approached with purpose, a deliberate and meaningful results-driven objective. Embracing this as an operational standard leads to the formation of habits, enhanced through repetition, and reinforced with great coaching.

Begin by simply asking: What do you intend to be the outcome of this service opportunity?

Your team can fill in the specifics, but the general nature of the response follows this sequence:

Expectations>Engage in the Moment>Exceed Expectations>Create a Memory>Preserve Loyalty

Populating the sequence with dialogue would then sound something like:

“Understand and embrace the expectations of my guest, then see and feel beyond the expected by remaining emotionally connected to the moment, sensing the most appropriate action or response given the situation and resources at hand, using empathic empowerment to truly connect with my guest, creating a shared memory and wish for a speedy return.”

Bear in mind this sequence is focused on intangibles, the look, feel and memory of an experience. Creating Excellence through Intention will establish a unique but consistent level of service within your Brand, one less prone to the discretionary or random application of effort.

No Appointments, Only Opportunities

If you have customers, guests, patients, or clients, please disregard connotations associated with appointments.

Moving forward there are no Appointments, only Opportunities . . . to engage, serve, treat, accommodate, etc.

Admittedly, this is the more difficult aspect to overcome in support of our Service Secret #7 ambitions. We are formatted to operate from lists and calendars, appointment books and reservations.

The danger is in allowing the numerical order or timing to dictate our emotional, and sometimes physical approach to service.

Tall Tim Example:  While supporting a team of Spa professionals, I happened by the Concierge Desk. At that precise moment, a Therapist discovered a client booked into the 5:00pm treatment slot . . . her last appointment of the day.

“Who booked my 5:00pm?” was her curt inquiry, complete with noticeable verbal and physical agitation.

The attendant calmly and quietly informed her that the guest had apologized for calling so late but was extremely grateful for the open time slot. She was incredibly busy, and this was the only time that matched her availability.

Unsatisfied and underwhelmed, the Therapist returned to the treatment area muttering “Well I have things to do to. I was hoping to leave early, but now that’s shot!”

Within days we received a Customer Satisfaction Survey submitted by the guest. She expressed in no uncertain terms her disappointment with the service received that afternoon. “Felt rushed”, “didn’t care about me”, and “probably will not return” were a few of the sentiments shared.

Break It Down: The Therapist attempted to justify her actions by saying she shouldn’t have been scheduled for her last appointment of the day . . . at least not without her approval. Department mechanics aside, once the appointment was booked, our Culture should have taken over.

This highlights the concern with appointments . . . they overshadow the value and importance, the potential impact and reward of an opportunity.

If you have eight Opportunities to engage, serve, or treat through the course of a day, there is no difference between first or last. They are all unique and deserving of your undivided intention to create excellence and preserve loyalty.

Pace Does Not Dictate Passion

Maintaining focus during peak hours of operation is the easy part. Extending Intention to the tapered ends of the business volume bell curve is what gives us trouble.

Visualizing the potential to engage as a series of unique, individual opportunities transcends pace. Personal pride nullifies distractions of reduced or chaotic business volume. Gratitude accompanies the freedom to perform without constraint, to truly focus on what matters most to those you serve.

This begins with the proper intention.

Tall Tim Example: We were in Boston for the weekend, celebrating our older son’s graduation from Boston University.

Following the pageantry of the ceremony, we decided to leave the Reception early and have dinner at one of the more popular restaurants in the area. Without reservations, we faced a 45-minute wait.

Instead, we decided to try another restaurant across the avenue, one also frequented by our son and his friends. There was no waiting list. In fact, there were few tables occupied and only a handful of patrons at the bar.

This matched our preference in that we could enjoy the moment and relax in a comfortable setting. Our server greeted us promptly, responding to questions with a casual, yet pleasant demeanor. Drinks were quickly delivered, and dinner orders captured.

We expected personalized service, since apparently we were her only table. Then, the waiting began . . .

When you begin to measure how long you’ve been waiting relative to other customers, you know it’s taking too long. Our drinks were empty, and there was no sign of our server. No one in the restaurant had been served their entrees.

Finally, our server returned to ask if we wanted another round of beverages, which we did. When she brought them to the table, I felt compelled to ask, “Is there something wrong in the kitchen?”

She just smiled as a non-verbal response, so I followed with, “Was there a call out? Are you short staffed?”

Her facial expression was best described as perplexed, curious as to why she was being asked these questions. She maintained her casual, yet pleasant demeanor, still smiling, shook her head, and responded with a simple, “No.”

“Then why is our food taking so long?”

There was no response at all. Our server disappeared like I Dream of Jeannie. The whole situation had turned almost comical. When our food was finally served, it was disappointing in quality and appearance. Our server’s demeanor, while still casual, was no longer pleasant but one of fearful concern when she approached to verify our satisfaction.

When no apology was offered for the delay in service or poor food quality, I had to ask if there was a manager available.

No, there isn’t” was all she said.

Break It Down: While our example screams ‘Service Recovery!’, it better highlights the importance of creating a Culture of Excellence Through Intention (ETI), one capable of influencing behavior across roles and responsibilities.

Without this climate of accountability, individuals are left to manage a mindset of pride and professionalism on their own. Connection to other elements within an experience can be interrupted or ignored completely.

Plugging this sequence of events into our ETI model, we begin with asking our server the question: What did you intend to be the outcome of this service opportunity?

Chances are, she won’t know how to respond beyond reciting basic service standards, or perhaps hope for a gratuity.

Dedicating a moment prior to each shift to ask this question refreshes Intention. Which is why the admitted absence of supervision also factors into our diorama of disappointment.

Once formed, habits are enhanced through repetition, and reinforced through coaching.  Being visible and available to coach through fluctuations in pace demonstrates a leader’s investment in Culture.

Your presence communicates value in serving with Intention. In the moment, opportunities to praise, or correct, builds trust enough to warrant a team or group effort in pursuit of excellence.

Proceed without repetition and reinforcement, and well . . . all your left with is a plate full of cold fries.

What We Repeatedly Do

As with so many aspects of human behavior, Excellence Through Intention must become a habit to realize the . . . intended (see how nicely that fits) . . . impact on your Service Culture.

Begin with promoting an Intentional Mindset by repeatedly challenging yourself and your team to respond to the question: What do you intend to be the outcome of this service opportunity? Focus on the intangibles of each opportunity as a unique experience, building upon basic expectations to create excellence and perpetuate loyalty.

This should feel like a challenge in the beginning . . . remember you’re growing. Do not willingly accept surface responses but go deeper to map out a progression capable of guiding your thoughts and actions.

Successful Brands, notably luxury and high-end operations, feature a Cultural Element of Intention, whether referred to as a motto, axiom, credo, creed, belief, etc. that is embraced and enlivened daily by individuals within the organization.

View appointments as opportunities, with each carrying a unique potential for creating excellence and inspiring loyalty. Avoid allowing pace to dictate passion; instead, appreciate an ability to serve and engage more intimately without the pressure of high volume or chaotic flow.

Once your shift or workday is officially complete, enjoy yourself . . . just remember to keep it between the navigational beacons.

Thank You for spending part of your day with Tall Tim Talks!    

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