I had an English teacher in high school who always said “words have meaning.”
Now Ms. Jackson had many impacts on my academic career – she inspired my love of writing, gave me an outlet for my creativity, and most importantly, she taught me that you have to mean what you say.
I think a lot about that when I talk to folks about what makes up a great service experience.
The power of words can’t be understated, because they form the basis of our communication and understanding. And those who don’t pay attention to the words they say are likely also as careless with their actions.
Think about the following and consider how, when we start with the right words, it evokes emotions that can inspire us to deliver top notch service to our Guests.
So, let’s start with Guests.
Customer vs Guest
As a veteran of the restaurant business, I’ve never had consumers or customers. I’ve always had Guests. To be successful in food, you have to begin with the premise that you are gathering people around your dinner table and taking a care of them. You can’t evoke that emotion without thinking about how you would serve a Guest in your home or if a neighbor came over for a cookout. As I’ve worked with organizations to improve their service, this mindset holds true no matter what the industry. From government agencies to fortune 500 companies to small restaurants, everyone should look at their patrons as Guests.
Team Member vs Employee
The term employee is one that makes you think of a number on a punch card or a cog in the wheel. When I think of team members or associates, it evokes something more than just a piece of the puzzle. It motivates me to think about the diversity and dynamic that makes up a high performing team. It should inspire you to select the very best talent and then engage with them in meaningful ways. It should also make your team proud to be a part of the fabric of an organization that brings satisfaction (and perhaps even joy) to Guests.
Try vs Do
This makes me think of Yoda.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try”
When I hear someone in a business tell me they will try, that doesn’t ring true with confidence. Organizations should know their limits, know what is possible, and not obfuscate. If you can do something for a Guest, then proudly say so. If something absolutely isn’t possible, then figure it out anyway. But in the event that something isn’t possible (after you really, really search for creative alternatives), then say so. There is nothing worse for Guests than to be led on until ultimately someone breaks the bad news.
You’re Welcome vs No Problem
This one tends to burn up a lot of folks. I see it happen all the time and it never fails to make me wonder about the implication. When I thank someone, its so nice to hear “You’re Welcome” or “My Pleasure.” What doesn’t fall well on a Guest’s ears is “No Problem” or “No Worries.” That always makes me wonder if there was going to be a problem or if there is often a problem, but it doesn’t feel like a satisfying close to a transaction.
Not My Fault vs I Apologize
Finally, sometimes things go wrong. You have to be ready to make things right for Guests if there is an issue, and language here is very important. Service recovery (the art of fixing Guest complaints) is often an emotionally charged process, so every word is important. Focus on apologizing and taking responsibility rather than scape-goating. Don’t be an excuse monster – and certainly don’t shift the blame to others during your conversation with a Guest. The reason this is important is that honestly Guest’s couldn’t care less who is to blame. They care that you apologize for the issue, fix it swiftly, and don’t repeat it.
This may seem like minutia, but every detail of your business tells as story about your brand – to both your Guests and your team.
So take some time this week to consider the words you use in your organization and you may find ways to make your message even clearer.
Because together we serve.
Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Experience Leader | Author | Speaker