Don’t let “backstage” come “onstage”!

With dance recital season in full swing, there has been much activity “onstage” and even more “backstage”.   However, this concept doesn’t just exist in the world of dance and theater, it’s in every business.

I first read about this concept in the book “Lessons from the Mouse” by Dennis Snow.  It’s about the secrets of success at Disney World.  Disney has a concept called “behind the magic”.  Guests are never to see or hear what goes on behind the magic.  You don’t see Snow White taking a smoke break or hear Mickey Mouse complaining about how hot it is and how he hasn’t had his break yet.  Guests are entitled to the “onstage” experience.  Disney looks great onstage because of what is kept behind the curtain … the stuff customers don’t want to know about.  Seeing or hearing backstage activity spoils the onstage experience for customers.

This happens in lots of customer service situations.  Have you ever approached a cash register or service counter only to feel like you were imposing on someone?  Have you had a service provider focus more on a task he or she was completing than acknowledging your presence as a “valued” customer?  Then there are co-worker interactions that happen at the expense of customer interactions.  We’ve all experienced this many times in the check-out line, handing over hard-earned money to a cashier who is completely engaged in conversation with a co-worker while ignoring us as customers.

Here are a few more examples of backstage invasions:

  • Employees eating in front of customers
  • Employees messing with cell phones
  • Employees complaining to a customer about another department or employee
  • Employees who have their two-way radios turned up so high that everyone in the store is exposed to their backstage business
  • Employees allowing filing or other work to take precedence over acknowledging customers
  • Closet doors or store rooms left open, or customer areas crowded with boxes
  • Overhearing negative employee comments about the company, eagerness to take a break or get off work, or annoyance with a previous customer

Every industry can benefit from a discussion of onstage vs. backstage behavior.  Determine how the onstage show should look, sound and feel for your business, and then train employees to keep backstage operations behind the curtain!


Three Secrets to Providing Customer Service the “Old Fashioned” Way!

It’s getting harder these days to find good old fashioned customer service.  Not only are service providers apparently less motivated to deliver good service, but a lot of customers are making it harder for them to do so!

On a recent trip to The Homestead, founded in 1766, in Hot Springs,VA, I experienced old fashioned service at its best.  Three positive things they did made a big impression!

Work like a team – The reservationist assured me over the phone that she would select a “preferred” room for my husband and me, since we are frequent guests.  Upon check in, the front desk clerk picked up on the reservation file notation and assured us with a smile that we were being “well taken care of”.  Although Frank the bellman was called over to usher us and our luggage to our room, we spotted our favorite bellman Keswick walking over to greet us.  As we stopped to speak to Keswick, Frank was perceptive and generous enough to hand us over to his teammate.  A brief but respectful exchange between teammates resulted in Frank remaining behind to help the next guest while Keswick helped us to our room.  It was so refreshing to have our customer experience elevated above some ritualistic employee procedure.

Pay attention to individual customer tastes – As my husband selected his second cup of tea during afternoon tea in the Great Hall on day one of our stay, tea server Ashley pointed out that his first cup had been decaf and that he had just selected regular for his second.  Although my husband intended to switch, we were impressed that Ashley had noticed and felt compelled to check.  The next afternoon at tea, Ashley prepared a cup of Earl Grey tea as I approached from across the room.  Somehow, with close to a hundred people taking tea that afternoon, Ashley remembered my preference from the previous day.  Kudos to Ashley for paying close attention to her guests and making them feel special!

Handle difficult customers with grace –  At breakfast in the dining room one morning, the omelet chef was making pleasant conversation with four of us while we waited for made-to-order omelets.  Another guest who had abandoned the omelet station suddenly reappeared and immediately received her waiting omelet.  This guest then rudely snipped, “It’s cold.  I don’t want a cold omelet!”  Without hesitation or change of facial expression, the chef pleasantly offered to either place the omelet back on the griddle or immediately make a fresh one.  The rude guest conceded that it would be ok and disappeared.  While the rest of us were mortified by the unjustified rude behavior, Chef Cathy handled it with a grace that further endeared her to the four appreciative “customers” in front of her.

Though old fashioned customer service is becoming less common, it’s still every bit as satisfying as it was in the days of old!  Think back to the higher standards we enjoyed not that long ago, and then find ways to incorporate those timeless behaviors into YOUR customer service today.

Who are “they”?

Have you ever been on the customer end of a statement involving the anonymous, yet typically uncooperative, “they”?  It goes like this…

Customer:  “I’d like to return this item even though I don’t have a receipt.  Can you help me?”
Service Provider:  “I’m sorry, they don’t allow us to accept returns without a receipt.”

At first glance, you might think that sounds pretty good and quite friendly.  However, there’s a subtle problem.  The employee said “they” don’t allow “us” to accept returns.  Who are “they”?  The evil, uncooperative business owners?  Doesn’t this employee represent the business, hence making him or her a member of the “we” group vs. the “us” collection?

Employees represent your business and are the “face” of your business to everyone whom they encounter in the course of doing business.  When referring to the employer, employees should always say “we”.  This demonstrates inclusion and alignment with the company, its products and its values.

  • We appreciate your business.”
  • “I’m sorry, we’re unable to accept returns without a receipt, but would you be interested in an exchange?”
  • We offer some additional discounts for students.”

Take time to meet with your employees and remind them that each of them is part of “we”!  Share your company vision and values and ensure that everyone feels like a player on the team vs. an observer from the bench.

Don’t leave your customers thinking, “Who are ‘they’?”