By Shep Hyken
The short version of the story is this. At about 9:15 p.m., I pulled into one of my favorite fast-food restaurants. There was one customer ahead of me in the drive-through lane. I assumed he was placing an order. After several minutes, I realized something else was going on. I wasn’t sure what, but the amount of time he spent talking to the person on the other end of the intercom took much longer than it should have. Eventually, he pulled around to get his food. It was now my turn.
I waited for the person to welcome me and ask what I wanted. It never happened. I then pulled around to the drive-through window. The employee inside ignored me. I tapped on the window, and she came over and said the restaurant was closed. I asked what time they closed, and she said 11. Then, I mentioned that it was not even 9:30. She shrugged and said, “I’m the only one here, and I’ve decided to close the restaurant.”
Who is to blame?
A few days later, I was with a high-level executive from a major restaurant chain and told her the story. She said, “It wasn’t the employee’s fault. It was her manager’s fault.”
The explanation was simple. The manager should never have allowed one employee to run a restaurant that takes a team of people. One, it’s impossible to do everything: taking orders, cooking the food, keeping the restaurant clean, and much more. Second, it’s just not safe to have one employee in the store, let alone late in the evening.
At some point, you must trust your employees to do a good job. Yet if they don’t, who is to blame? The employee at the fast-food restaurant was put into a situation and given responsibility beyond her capabilities. Whoever is in charge of hiring must hire the right people who are capable – or have the potential – of handling the job. Whoever is in charge of training must give the employee the skills needed to do the job. And whoever oversees scheduling must make sure the restaurant is appropriately staffed.
Of course, there is more than just hiring, training, and staffing, but the point is not to be so quick to blame the employee for a bad customer experience. Assuming the employee is capable, failure is often due to something or someone else.
The story I shared illustrates how failure in customer service is often not the fault of the individual but the system in place. All things considered, the responsibility for customer service success or failure usually lies in the hands of leadership, not the front-line workers.