Another vignette from my travels has got me thinking, linked to other similar experiences closer to home.

I was sitting in an M6 services at the weekend, simply eating my sandwiches, in an area probably reserved for other customers consuming more complex items from the hot food purveyors. As I watched the zombified people trudging around me, my attention was drawn to a food seller from a company based in the southwest; obviously an employee and not a stakeholder. In the space of a couple of minutes, two different family groups approached the counter. In the first instance, the employee was behind it and watched in a bored way as the family perused the hot offerings and then wandered on. No words were exchanged. The worker then came out from their fortress and slowly busied themselves with clearing a table beside me that had been covered in debris for a while. The second group approached the counter and were noticed, but again, no effort was made to engage them in conversation or in fact to try and sell them anything. Similarly, the people moved on without purchasing anything. The table was gradually cleared and the floor swept in a cursory manner, at which point the stall-holder scurried back in to their place of safety.

Looking back, I suspect they could have been criticised for leaving the mess – it’s observable – but not making a huge effort and consequently missing a sale is harder to quantify for a manager. It seemed to be a classic example of someone only barely motivated by the pay they’ll get for turning up. How different it could have been if they had been interested in customer service, allowing prospects to associate a smiling face and helpful manner with the products, possibly resulting in a future sale for the whole-company team. How short-sighted to simply work to the lowest acceptable standard on the grounds that they will still get paid for it. At least today they will, but what about in the future?

Assuming they are on a lowly wage, it could be argued that they don’t get paid for smiles and friendliness, but surely it is such a necessity of any customer-facing position that it barely needs to be articulated in a job spec. If you fail that bit, you are not up to scratch for the job, whatever skills you possess.

Surely providing good service is an essential quality for anyone meeting a customer. In recent conversations in my business club we have realised this is one of the similarities between us all, despite our disparate professions. I see it as an essential part of my work but assume this thinking is true for everyone. I often talk about hiring attitude because skills can be trained but maybe the pool of people with a sufficiently good approach is so limited that this is not always possible.

This then raised a couple of questions in my head:

  • How can we inspire people to want to serve more?
  • How can we encourage employees to motivate themselves to do a good job?

Maybe the answer lies in how we work with the teams and sub-divisions in our company. Do people work simply for the short-term good of themselves and their department/silo/location or do they understand that they are part of a wider company and its success derives from their input but also will have an impact on their own individual futures? Can workers be inspired as part of that team to do better for each other, to assist and help colleagues from outwith their immediate sphere of influence, because they are all working towards a larger objective together?

So are you and your employees or colleagues going through the motions today, or are you still motivated to give the customers in front of you the best possible experience of your company?