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Service Superstars Part 2: Treat them like they own it!

By Dr. Bryan K. Williams, D.M.
June 2010

“The trouble with having employees is that eventually you have to pay them.”  Wow! I heard a manager make that comment not too long ago, and I had to look at him to see if he was serious. Unfortunately, he was. Recently, I wrote an article entitled Work like you own it, which basically means that regardless of your job title you should approach it with zeal, commitment, and pride. One thing I did not explain, however, is that if you are a manager, and you want your staff to work like they own it, then you have to treat them like they own it.

Service superstars who work like they own it need to be empowered, informed, challenged, involved, motivated, and appreciated. The most difficult one for many managers to effectively implement is to make their staff feel empowered. Allow me to give an example. Often times when I travel on business, I rent a car with a GPS unit. Usually, I have no problems with the GPS units, but on two separate occasions the GPS led me to multiple dead-end roads and gave me outdated routes. Basically, the units were not updated recently. At Rental Car Agency A, when I returned the car I informed the agent about my GPS problems, and she promptly:

  1. Apologized (I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.)
  2. Empathized (I can only imagine how frustrating that must have been.)
  3. Fixed it (I’ll go ahead and remove the GPS charge. I apologize, once again, for the inconvenience.)

That employee obviously was empowered (aka trusted to make decisions), and it showed!

Now let’s contrast my experience at Rental Car Agency A with Rental Car Agency B. When I returned the car, and told the Agency B agent about the GPS problem, she promptly replied, “Well, that’s not possible, they were just updated last month!” Then, she followed it up with, “Are you sure that YOU didn’t do something wrong?” For good measure, she ended with, “Well, I can’t do anything about that, so you’ll have to go see a desk agent”. In all, it took me speaking with three different people over the course of two days to get the stupid GPS charge removed. Now, which agency do you think I will use in the future, and which one do you think I will avoid?

Please note that the employees at Agency B did not necessarily set out each day to ruin their company’s reputation. They obviously were not empowered to do anything about my GPS issue. In fact, they may be legitimately disgruntled due to the lack of empowerment. They may be saying, “I want to help you, but THEY won’t let me do anything (Note: “They” is the managers. See my article Service Ambassadors for more information on that.)

Owners make things happen. They don’t sit around and wait to gain approval for small things. I know many business owners who get very frustrated when a simple solution turns into a bureaucratic mess. Lack of empowerment (especially in a service business) kills morale and ultimately affects the customer’s service experience. So if you are a manager and are reading this, I have three words for you… Empower Your Staff. 

But be careful…empowering is more than just saying, “OK, now you are empowered”. It is a conditioning process.

Here is what I recommend:

  1. Start with a clear standard describing empowerment.
  2. Make sure everyone knows the standard (No, one memo will not be suffice).
  3. Regularly (daily) share real examples of when you empowered yourself and other empowerment examples with the team. This builds competency by educating your staff on ways to use empowerment.
  4. Recognize when employees show that they are trying
When I was a hotel front desk agent, my manager said that I was empowered to make decisions. There wasn’t much else direction. So one day, a guest complained that the toilet in his room was not working. I proceeded to “empower” myself to comp the remaining three nights of his stay, which was grossly more than the situation warranted. What do you think my manager did when he heard about it?

     a)  Yelled at me until my ears were numb.
     b)  Told me that the room night revenue I lost would come out of my future paychecks.
     c)  Thanked me for caring enough to do something about the situation.

The answer is C. He then immediately followed up by coaching me on various options I could try in the future. If he did A or B, my confidence would have been crushed and I probably would not be in any rush to empower myself again.

Use every opportunity you can to engage your team to make decisions. If you really want your team to be engaged, then you will empower them, inform them, challenge them, motivate them, and appreciate them. Imagine a team full of people who work with a vested interest. Sometimes the only key missing is for you (the manager) to treat your team like they own it.

B.Williams Enterprise Updates

Summer Savings 2010 – Are you interested in enhancing your service levels in a major
way? If you are, click here to learn more !
Submit your Wow Stories! - We would be honored if you can share a “wow story” from your organization. Basically, examples of when your staff exceeded a customer's expectations and created a memorable experience for them.  Just email the story to us! Please note if you would like us to not share your company's name. A paragraph (or 2) should be suffice. Just enough to clearly explain what the wow story was about and how the employee's actions made a positive difference. The first 5 submissions will receive a signed copy of Bryan’s book! So don’t hesitate!

About the Author

Dr. Bryan K. Williams is the Chief Service Officer of B.Williams Enterprise, and the author of Engaging Service: 22 Ways to Become a Service Superstar. Bryan’s passion is world-class customer service, and has facilitated workshops and delivered keynotes all over the world for various companies.  He speaks on a variety of topics related to service excellence, employee engagement, and organizational improvement.  As a consultant, Bryan works closely with companies to design, develop, and implement sustainable service strategies. His company’s online store includes a growing collection of customer service products that are well-suited for your training library.


Order Bryan’s new book and other resources at .
Engaging Service: 22 Ways to Become a Service Superstar

Find more resources relating to service excellence at

Also on the website, you can subscribe to the official B.Williams Enterprise emailing list.  You will receive announcements, newsletters and other excellent resources.


B. Williams Enterprise, LLC 
Phone: 240-401-6958 

EngageMe - Your #1 Source for Customer Service Products


Also See: Make each touchpoint memorable: Cha-Ching! / Dr. Bryan K. Williams / April 2010

Service Superstars: Work like you own it! / Bryan Williams / February 2010

Complimentary resources from Bryan K. Williams and B.Williams Enterprise! Begin 2010 with a focus on world-class service. / January 2010

Service Ambassadors: The Key to Providing World-Class Service / Bryan K. Williams / November 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 3 / Bryan K. Williams / September 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 2 / Bryan K. Williams / August 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 1/ Bryan K. Williams / July 2009

Engaging Service: 22 Ways to Become a Service Superstar / Bryan K. Williams / July 2009

Complimentary tele-seminars with Bryan K. Williams in July! / July 2009

Building a Team of Living It Employees / Bryan K. Williams / June 2009

World-Class Service: What if every employee served like a concierge? / Byran K Williams / March 2009

5 Star Leadership: What Does It Take to Be a 5-star Leader? / Byran Williams / February 2009

5 Stars vs. 4 Stars: What’s the Difference? / Byran Williams / January 2009

Complimentary training with Bryan Williams / January 2009

The 7 Principles of EngageMeTM is now available! / Bryan K. Williams / November 2008

Hiring and Engaging a World-Class Team / Bryan K. Williams / October 2008

Great Ideas for National Customer Service Week 2008 / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service Part 3: Company Service Standards / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service Pt. 2: Personal Service Standards / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service: Function vs. Purpose / Bryan K. Williams / August 2008

Guest Problem Resolution 101: Power of the Follow-Up / Bryan K. Williams / June 2008

7 Principles to Fully Engage Your Customers – Part 2 / Bryan K. Williams / May 2008

7 Principles to Fully Engage Your Customers / Bryan K. Williams / April 2008

I Am a Service Professional™ / Bryan K. Williams / March 2008

Engage Every Customer…One Touchpoint at a Time / Bryan K. Williams / January 2008

Engaging Service Part 2: It’s All About the Culture / Bryan K. Williams / December 2007

Engaging Service Part 1: Not Just for the Chic / Bryan K. Williams / November 2007

Service Excellence: A Destination or a Journey? / Bryan K. Williams / October 2007

National Customer Service Week is Coming Soon - October 1-5, 2007 / September 2007

National Customer Service Week is Coming Soon - October 1-5, 2007 / September 2007

Engage Me…the Voice of Your Customer / September 2007

Customer Engagement: Where do we begin? / Byran K Williams / August 2007

Engage Me…the Voice of Your Customer / / August 2007

B. Williams Enterprise, LLC Launches Engage Me…  the Voice of Your Customer / August 2007

To Engage…Listen to the Voice of Your Customer / Byran K Williams / August 2007

To Engage the Guest, You Must Engage Those Who Directly Serve the Guest / Byran K Williams / July 2007

Three Service Rules: The Golden Rule, Platinum Rule, and Double Platinum Rule/ Byran K Williams / June 2007

The Greatest Bellman I Ever Met… / Bryan K. Williams / April 2006

Sorry to Say…But Some People Should Not be Serving Other Human Beings / Bryan K Williams / October 2006

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