Let’s Talk Service

Let’s Talk Service

September 5, 2014

Let’s Talk Service by Joanne Ladley

Whether you refer to the way you treat the people you serve at work as guest service, client service or customer service, likely you have a philosophy that undergirds how you handle situations where your service comes into question.

One philosophy is: The Customer is Always Right. A sign in front of Stew Leonard’s Connecticut grocery store says it well:

  • The Customer is Always Right
  • If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-read Rule #1

Another has more subtleties: Ritz Carlton’s guest service training system is called LEAP:

  • Listen
  • Empathize
  • Ask
  • Produce

At my family’s business, we commit to World Class Service. It’s in our Strategic Plan, we bring service stories to weekly huddles, and our peer to peer program recognizes good service. Team members write “You’ve Been Caught” notes and, randomly, we give gifts of anything from ice cream cones to $250 restaurant gift certificates when we notice world class service.

But none of these approaches addresses the emotions we feel when a complaint hits us. It is easy to become reactionary and ineffective.

Fortunately, I have many mentors who’ve helped prepare me for the occasions when powerful emotions are stirred, as they were recently, for example, when a lodging guest at Kitchen Kettle thought he deserved a free room.

Here’s the path I followed as I combined the philosophies of my mentors:

– Listening comes first
– A confident and humble context sets the tone
– Kind and powerful conversations solve problems

Confident may seem contradictory to humble, and kind in opposition to powerful. But in practice they reinforce each other.

With these guidelines, more often than not I find that the guest and I can make a win/win out of what could have been a losing, negative experience.


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