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Always on Stage

I stopped into a quick service burger joint a few days ago. I wish I could say that I was lost or that I never go to those places or that I was just looking for kale, but none of that would be true.

I love a good cheeseburger and on this particular day I was visiting one of those establishments with a darned good reputation for great burgers. And in the town where I live, they normally do a solid job.

This, however, was not one of those days.

You could tell right away it was going to be potentially terrible as there was a stalled car in one of the drive through lanes, and the line was wrapped around the block. But I considered myself exceptionally smart as I parked my car and walked in rather than driving into the quagmire that was the drive through.

After my order was completed I walked over to the waiting area and watched the line produce the food that was being served to both the counter and drive through guests. They were clearly in trouble.  The production line was nearly empty, the floor was covered in escaped french fries and a light coating of grease, and the employees had the look of those who had accidentally wandered into a dumpster fire.

As the boards flashed red (noting that orders were over the time limit for service) the team members snapped at each other and looked as though they’d rather be anyplace else.

These types of displays take away from the overall guest experience and can be uncomfortable for onlookers.  They can damage your brand and create an atmosphere that doesn’t encourage guests to want to return.

The good news is that with a little training, every organization can create an environment that is professional and comfortable.

Be Clear That Everyone is Watching

When you are at work, you are on stage.  This is something everyone needs to understand and embrace.  Customers are watching and they expect behaviors in line with their expectations.  At restaurants and health care facilities they are watching to see if sanitation and hand washing standards are up to par.  At all types of businesses they are evaluating body language, appearance, speed, and competence.  People make snap judgements and just understanding that you are starring in a reality television show everyday at work can help frame up the scrutiny you and your team are under each day.  Also, never forget that every guest has the ability to reach a wide audience via social media with the camera in their pockets.

Make Sure Your Team Knows How to Behave

Have you been crystal clear with your expectations for behavior?  These behavioral standards should be expected whether customers can see your team or not.  Be clear about your standards for attire, body language, professionalism, attitude, and service.  Often poor service comes from misalignment between leaders and their teams – and a lack of clarity around the standards which are expected.  Make sure new team members know the standards and celebrate those who exemplify them (and coach those who are not making the grade).

Set Up a Line of Demarcation

When your team starts their work day do they know where the crossover is from “out of sight” to “in line of sight.”  This is a tricky one, because really your team is on stage most of the time.  When they enter work or leave work, they may cross paths with customers.  Be sure they understand they are ambassadors for your brand even if they are wearing your name badge or uniform at the grocery store or getting gas.  If they note where they work on social media, then every post reflects on your organization.  Be sure that everyone understands this and how important they are to the business reputation in the community.  It could be as simple as neat attire before walking out onto the sales floor or as complex as how they behave on Instagram.

Set a Great Example

As leaders, we all have an obligation to model the behaviors we want our team to adopt. If you don’t serve guests well or take pride in your appearance, then why would your team?  Be mindful of your behaviors because as a leader, not only are you being watched by your customers but by your team as well.  Think about the chances you have to model the best actions each day – and you’ll be surprised how your team works to emulate the example you set.

Talk to your team during your next group meeting or huddle to ensure that they understand the impact they have on your reputation and guest perception.

Ask their opinions on the guest experience and perception – and their ideas to improve performance.  You may find they need something simple like a mirror to check their appearance before starting work.  You may find they have questions about the social media policy.  You may also find that they have suggestions to improve overall service.

Together we serve.


Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Service Leader | Author |  Speaker

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