SERVICE WITH A SMILE • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine


Don't assume good service will just happen; it takes training.

So many exciting things are happening in Northwest Indiana, with new bike trails connecting our communities, the addition of sports arenas, pavilions and great parks, along with the many improvements happening along our lakeshore.

Those organizations working to assure that we are considered a destination community should be supported and commended. But one question remains: Are we ready?

We know we can build it, but will they come? And, when they get here, are we ready? How will those visitors be treated? Will they speak highly of their travels to Northwest Indiana? We hope so, but we need to prepare now to assure a favorable outcome.

Northwest Indiana business owners need to prepare their workforce for high quality and exceptional service-oriented experiences for themselves and their customers. Do employees understand the expectations their organization has for them? When new employees are hired, many times we are told they do not receive an orientation or even a job description outlining their duties.

Hiring is an investment and many employers know that finding and keeping good talent is a difficult task. Zappos, an online shoe company, is actually paying people to leave! Yes, to leave. They orient their employees over a four-week period. At the end on the first week, they offer anyone who cannot support the company values or who feels he or she will not fit in $1,000 to leave. And, yes, they get some takers.

Consider the following three simple steps to help improve the service culture in Northwest Indiana.

First, employees need to understand the expectations from both their employer and their customer. Service standards should be articulated in the same way that production standards are. As organizations prepare standards for production, such as parts per million, or for healthcare, such as infection rates, service standards should be measureable as well. Here's an example:

Customer Waiting. Show respect that everyone's time is precious by being prompt.
Second, measure your success rate. Measuring the success of your customer service standards seems like a difficult task for most of us. It doesn't have to be. Here are some simple measures you can use related to customer reception: Welcome visitors within five seconds. Offer them a friendly greeting. As you do, smile and make eye contact, then introduce yourself. Finally, escort customer as needed.

Although most of this measurement is done by observation, customer feedback in this area also supports the efforts you are making.

Once expectations are clearly established, employees deserve to be trained. Most of us believe good manners are taught at home, but we have found this is not the norm. If you expect people to smile and to offer a friendly greeting, you must train them to assure it happens.

We also support the use of competency testing to assure training has been effective and to be sure the employee understands the material. This is also useful in determining areas of remediation.

Lastly, we encourage employers to incorporate these standards of service into their performance evaluation systems. Employees then see the connection and employers have the opportunity to reward the behavior they expect. Employees need feedback on their performance: good and bad. It is the manager's or owner's responsibility to assure that areas of improvement are identified and plans for improvement are articulated. And don't forget the follow through to achieve success.

Northwest Indiana has many great attractions including shopping, restaurants and hotel accommodations. Let's collaborate to be certain our service industry is ready for what is headed our way!

Desila Rosetti, president of Organizational Development Solutions Inc. in Westville, is a leader in the development of human capital including management training and professional development for individuals, teams and entire organizations.


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