A central part of having happy, productive Team Members, and thus happy and loyal customers is employee empowerment. Your Team must be empowered to make customer service decisions without a manager’s input.
Let me illustrate the importance of this with a personal experience. In the year 2000, my wife and I visited the US. We went to Madison Square Garden to watch an important heavy weight boxing match, and then flew to Dallas, Texas, where my brother-in-law was studying at the time. My brother-in-law showed us around and took us to some nice restaurants. He also wanted to show us this really beautiful hotel, the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.
We visited the hotel and settled in the lobby, where we ordered some juices. The drinks took slightly longer than usual to arrive, but they were good and we didn’t complain. Later we asked for the bill, and the waitress told us smiling “oh don’t worry, the drinks are on me, because you had to wait so long.”
Wow! The wait wasn’t really that long at all, but she wanted to make sure to compensate us anyway. And the interesting thing is that she did not need to take anyone’s permission to make that decision. She was empowered to make it on her own, for the sake of the guest’s experience. Get my point?
Let me give you another example, this time on how the lack of employee empowerment can lead to a bad customer experience. I used to have a loyalty card with one of the five-star hotels here in Bahrain. I would get a discount whenever I have a meal there in any of the restaurants. When I first purchased the loyalty card in the mid 2000’s I was given a booklet full of vouchers and discount coupons, one of which was for BD 20 which could be used in any of the hotel’s restaurants. The fine print on the voucher read “not valid for Eid holidays.”
A few months later, on our national day holiday, I took my wife to the Japanese restaurant in the hotel. I decided to use the BD 20 discount voucher. When he saw the voucher, the waiter said that we could not use it because it was national day. Annoyed, I explained to him that the voucher was not allowed to be used on Eid holiday, it did not say anything about national day.
Confused, he said “let me ask my manager.” After about a 10-minute wait, the manager finally came. She looked at the voucher and said “Sir, this voucher cannot be used today.” Now I was really annoyed! I showed her the voucher and asked her to show me where it said that I could not use it on national day. She looked at the voucher nervously, but was too afraid to make a decision.
She said, “Sir I need to call the Food and Beverage Manager.” “Fine, call him!” I said. For me it became a matter of principle. I could have just paid the bill in full and be on my way - because I really hate my time being wasted - but I wanted to see the matter through. To make things more interesting, the F&B manager was not on duty, and they had to call him on his mobile. They eventually got through to him and he said that it was okay to use the discount voucher. Thank you for stating the obvious! I thought to myself.
I had to wait twenty minutes for the whole matter to be resolved, all because this five-star hotel did not empower its employees. It ruined my dinner experience, and what’s worse for the hotel, I must have told 100 people about the incident, and I use it as a negative example in my leadership seminars. See the difference between the two stories?
Ask yourself, are your employees empowered? Or do they have to go really high up the chain of command to make the tiniest of decisions? If this is the case, know that this will diminish your customer’s overall experience, and will give an edge to your competitors who understand the importance of proper employee empowerment.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
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