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Sunday, March 11, 2007

How Empowering Your Employees Helps Everybody

The Evil Family went out for dinner tonight at a chain restaurant. We don't frequent chains because the food tends to be mediocre and the service bad, but we were on our way home from skiing and we needed to eat before the Offspring fell asleep. So, a chain it was.

The diners on either side of us had problems with their meals. Diner A's steak was not cooked right. Diner B ordered a chicken burrito and received a bean burrito. Neither was the end of the world and both diners were very polite as they explained this to their (different) waitresses.

Here is what happened with Diner B.

Diner B (very pleasantly): Excuse me, I ordered the chicken burrito and there is no chicken in it. It's just beans.
Waitress: Oh. Let me get the manager.
Waitress runs off and finds manager. This takes several minutes. Manager comes over and is looking completely frazzled (although her hair is still perfect--I should ask her what she uses in it).
Diner B (slight edge to her voice): This is a bean burrito. It's supposed to be chicken.
Manager: (Leans over table and peers into half eaten burrito.) Oh, okay. We'll get you another one.
Diner B: Thanks. (Customer leaves talking about how they always mess up here.)

Now, this ended just fine, although the customer was more annoyed than she would have been had the waitress been empowered to fix the problem herself.

Wally in last week's carnival, gave us some ideas of why we have problem managers. And as a sneak preview for the upcoming carnival, Lisa tells us more about the problems of poor management. I personally hate the "empowered" word, but that was what needed to happen. Here is what should have happened.

Diner B (very pleasantly): Excuse me, I ordered the chicken burrito and there is no chicken in it. It's just beans.
Waitress: I'm so sorry. I'll get a chicken one made for you immediately. I do apologize.
Customer: Thanks, I appreciate it. (Customer leaves feeling all warm and fuzzy about the restaurant.)

Now, because it was a chain restaurant, I don't know if the manager was empowered to delegate the ability to fix kitchen errors to the wait staff. She should have been. She was running around like crazy, fixing things that could have been fixed by others.

We don't train our managers correctly. We don't teach them what they, as the manager, should fix and what their employees should fix. Managers are scared to let employees have any power--for fear they'll make the wrong decision. If your employees are poor decision makers, you should not have hired them in the first place. Hire good employees and let them do their work.

And get that poor lady a chicken burrito. She's been waiting for it.


Tinsie said...

As always, you make an awful lot of sense.

Evil HR Lady said...


Wally Bock said...

Most of the good managers I've seen in both corporate and franchise environments pay very little attention to official corporate stuff about what their people can do on their own initiative. And it really shouldn't be so hard. If you hire good people and give them a clear rule like "whatever it takes to please the customer" or "anything that pleases the customer and costs less than $100," why then the well-trained folk you have will mostly make good decisions. The ones who don't can be offered opportunities to reform and the one that don't can be marched down the documentation trail to their next employment opportunity.

Lisa said...

Lack of empowerment at Gymboree is why I don't shop there anymore. Last year for Christmas my brother sent my daughter a bunch of clothes and in the Christmas haste, I saved the Gymbuck and inadvertently threw away the receipt. I went to the store and had over $125 of items on the counter and they would not honor my $25 coupon. My daughter was actually wearing the clothes her uncle had sent her, the manager commented on how nice thet look and I have been shopping in that store since before my daughter was born so they have a fair chunk of my income. Needless to say, we left without the items. I wrote to their headquarters to no avail. In a mall where one store gives me all of the applicable discounts, coupons in hand or not, or another provided me with 10% off for an entire day when foundation I ordered came to me in the wrong shade - why the heck would I go back to store that would not honor the coupon in hand because the receipt was not attached? Did I mention that the staple holes were in it still? So, our new favorite place in Children's Place and I am willing to drive further to shop there than give Gymboree any more of my money. Phew, that felt good! :)

Evil HR Lady said...

I don't understand why the corporate types don't understand this principle. Perhaps I should try to get my brother-in-law who is a retail executive to weigh in.

class-factotum said...

I worked at Major Department Store over Christmas. At first, I called the manager over everything -- should I give a discount for missing buttons, should I honor a coupon, should I take a return, etc. He finally told me, "If it's $50 or under, just give it to the customer. They'll come back and spend more than that."

Anonymous said...

Well, at the risk of sounding like a corporate stooge, think wait service even in chain restaurants is nearly always extremely good (and the food too). Maybe it's a regional thing and you live in the wrong state.

Of course I'm more sensitive to noticing this since going to work for a Europe-based company. My European co-workers visiting here never fail to be absolutely astonished and raving about what they perceive as inconceivably great customer service virtually everywhere they go. My boss simply can't stop talking about it.