Friday, December 30, 2016

Pretend You’re Working For Tips

This being my article for the December blog, I thought I would try to tune into our “end of the year” thought process where we take time to reflect on what the past year has offered us as far as our jobs are concerned. You already know how you did financially. That’s a matter of record and it’s now history. Moving forward. The equally important question is, how well did you perform your job and, specifically, how well did you treat your customers? It’s easier to point to how many times you “beat the clock” or locked in on a diagnosis as soon as it hit the lift. That doesn’t give you the whole picture. Last month we spoke about accumulating those “Passing Grades”. If it’s not fresh in your mind, this is a good time for you to go back and review the article (Does Anything Ever Go Wrong?). It might help get you started in even more positive direction for 2017.

I know it’s hard to keep focused on delivering outstanding customer service. It challenges us the minute we walk in the door. You can call it what you like; busy schedule, technical challenges, poorly behaving associates or an upset customer. They are a part of our lives and we have to learn to block them out and put them in the back of our minds before we engage the next customer or bring the next vehicle into the bay. The work you are about to do or the customer you are about to speak to have no idea and should have no bearing on what your “personal” problems might be and it’s wrong for you to inject them into their world. Remember, they really didn’t want to be in your shop to begin with.

So, …. Let me try to offer another approach that might prove useful to you this coming year. I’m going to imagine that a good many of us may have worked at a job sometime in our lives where tips made up an important part of our pay. Even if you didn’t, you have surely been on the tipping end of the equation enough times that this thought process will be significant to you. I know there are people out there that consider tipping an imposition. Fortunately, I believe they are in the minority. Personally, I tend to be a generous tipper because, having worked for tips at an early age, I understand the value they represent to the person providing the service. I remember what my mindset was while I was working at those jobs. The people I was caddying for or waiting on their tables could make or break my day. (By the way, this is all about understanding that YOU have a very personal responsibility in the results of the job you do.) If I wanted a generous tip I had to offer outstanding service. In fact, I had to go above and beyond the accepted (and expected) level of service in order to get that person to think to themselves “Hey, this guy deserves an “extra generous” tip”.

I’m not trying to get you to feel bad for me and I’m not looking for praises. What I’m trying to get you to do is STOP and think for a moment about how folks who depend on tips for a good part of their living approach their day. I will surely not argue with you that there are exceptions to that rule. We have all had people “wait” on us, or try to, that gave us reason to question the necessity to leave a tip at all or even call their lack of service to the attention of their manager. And, that, my friends, is exactly the feeling I want you to remember! …. Gotcha!!! …. I want you to remember how you felt when you were the recipient of that poor service. I know you have many examples and I’m going to tell you that I have many more that I will be sharing with you from time to time as we go on a journey through these blogs.

Here’s just one of those examples from my personal list. If you have ever been on vacation at a resort or on a ship you can guess where I’m going. I’m want to single out a cruise vacation because I know they are very popular right now as many of these huge companies vie for your dollars by building larger and larger ships and dropping fares to near bargain level. How they manage to get people off and on these 4,000 and 5,000 passenger ships along with all that luggage being exchanged and new food and supplies is nothing short of a logistical miracle. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

My purpose here is to address how they get the message across to every one of their international crew on what is expected of them as they interact with the paying passengers.  Probably half of the crew is “behind the scenes” while the other half is tasked with directly serving and interacting with the passengers. If you think this happens by accident, you really haven’t thought about. I’m not going to get into the details now. That will be a subject we’ll address in a future blog.

I have been fortunate to have been on several cruises and I have to tell you that, for the most part, all of them have put me face to face with hundreds (maybe thousands, considering the size of some of the crews) of employees that “had the message”. The wait staff, the cabin stewards and even the maintenance crews all had a smile or a greeting. Those who were in a position to be the recipient of “expected” tips seemed to be “over the top” accommodating. If you’ve been on a cruise you know the “end of cruise” routine where, even if the brochure said “tips included”, you were left printed envelopes on your bed on the last night that were specifically addressed to each of the positions that you were supposed to tip. This came along with the “tip vouchers” that you had to insert in each envelope and hand to the respective people.

Now for the moment of truth. You stand there with the envelopes and vouchers and you consciously insert each voucher in the appropriate envelope. Some go in without a thought and sealed. Others make you pause and think about how a couple of these people really went overboard (yeah, that was on purpose) and you slip some extra dollars into the envelope. Now, why did you do that?

The bottom line is that it takes a tremendous effort to have the vast majority of the paying passengers (translated to: customers in your shop) leave the ship with a positive attitude. You’ll never make everyone happy because someone is always going to find their steak served at the wrong temperature, their drink not strong enough or their cabin too small for their liking.
Some things are just going to be beyond your personal control. BUT …. It IS your job to try to do your best.

I don’t want you to finish reading this blog and feel all the responsibility rests entirely on your shoulders. It does not! To deliver that type of service, the direction needs to come from the very top and it means that everyone in the shop needs to be on board and committed to the same message.  That sounds easier than it really is and doesn’t happen by accident or without effort. We will definitely be talking more about that in later blogs.

I’m sure, some of you are in a position to be on the receiving end of a “gratuity or courtesy tip” in your shops. Most are not and never will be. All I am asking is that when you approach a customer walking into your shop or start on the next job ticket, pretend you are working for tips.

© Bill Rosenberg