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In a boom, service suffers – “Sure aren’t we flat out anyway?”
In a recession, service suffers – “We just can’t afford the right people”

Neither are a strategy.
Bad service is the death knell of any business.

The Generations and Learning
In my generation school and learning meant having a great memory. During term, you were given the answer and, at exam time, they wanted to know if you remembered. Today, educating means effecting change. Change in thinking, methodology and outcomes. This is what teaches. This is what matters and this is what sustains. To achieve this, try the following;
Ask them a question about service that ... makes them think, makes them discuss and reason, makes them challenge the way they saw things, makes them reflect, figure it out and add to the subject. In the future memory will be useful but effecting change is how we progress and grow.

If you want great service then you must rethink your training methodology.
Our workforce is already being influenced by Millennials (a person reaching young adulthood in the 21st century and already the largest generation in the USA) and Generation Y are now in mid to senior management roles.
They behave, respond and are motivated entirely differently to all preceding generations – Generation X, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists and if you are applying old methods of teaching, training and motivating, the chances are, you are not connecting.

Millennials learn differently because of their lifelong access to technology.
Service focused businesses need to consider that when designing learning methods. For example, an interactive approach to learning is a better way to get through to this generation than strict lecture-style training.
Your challenge is simply to grab their attention. But first, you need to learn all about them.

They learn differently and these thoughts might give you insights;

Learning Instantly
Millennials are heavily connected to their mobile devices. Search engines and social media are this generation’s primary resource for knowledge, regardless of the subject. Think “Google it”.
They are constantly sharing information and insights through these platforms which allows them instant feedback.
They want it now.

Little Lessons
Microlearning is becoming one of the most successful learning methods for Millennials it provides simple, quick, information which they often prefer in story and video format. Again, think ‘You Tube’. Smaller pieces of information means less overload and creates a sense of ongoing learning and empowerment. Short training sessions have much greater appeal than one way lectures.

Millennials love games and research says. 57% of 18- to 34-year-olds play video games at least 3 times a week, and two-thirds of them said it was important in helping them learn how to create winning strategies, solve problems, and work successfully on a team.

Mentoring and Coaching
Millennials love to learn and are respond well to mentoring. Having in-house trainers and managers provide their younger peers with regular feedback, their lessons and experiences are highly desirable for these emerging young future leaders

Despite That, Nothing Changes
But there’s a difference between learning and the lesson. Like a car, they change, reflect modern needs but they still get you from A to B.
Great service is still great service.

Defining ‘Service’
For years, we have all been exposed to copy and paste definitions of ‘service’. Like any industry jargon, some scribes and lecturers have mastered the art of making the simple complex.
Yes, service is about attitude, motivation and all of that but think again about an outdated text book definition and ask yourself ‘Is this connecting with young professionals today?’

For me, service is simple. My definition is;

“Great service is all about making the customers life easier”

This covers every single situation and people will understand it instantly.

I’m not sure you can train or pour great service training all over your staff, why? Because they already know what it is, yet we all have an innate gene that often resists anything that seems to be forced on us. That’s why the first paragraph of this article (do read it again) is redirecting your thinking.

In short, they must explore service, discuss it, debate it and, most importantly, come up with their own ideas and solutions. If you facilitate that, you give them ownership, you empower them and they will tell you the solutions.
The role of leadership in this scenario is to inspire, allow, challenge, cut through and reach measurable, actionable consensus.

There are good and bad habits.
If you want to change service in your business you need to change habits.
Bad service is allowing bad habits and a lack of training and investment in your people is also a bad habit.
Great service will only happen if you create good habits that they buy in to.
Yes, it is that simple – breaking bad habits and creating good ones.

8 Thoughts on Service
1. Service is not tangible it’s a 'feeling' It is created by staff who are led by managers, who in turn work for the owners. All are responsible for setting the mood, tone and atmosphere that creates the atmosphere, culture and mood. Is that you?

2. Passion for service is imperative, not desirable. If you have not got the passion you are missing the key to success. Marry this with knowledge and experience and profit will follow. If your sole mission is profit, prepare to fail

3. The Interdepartmental Relationship between the customer and the kitchen is nurtured by the service staff, nobody else. Listen to what your customers want and they will come running again and again and again.

4. Check out your competitors and be self-critical, true and honest. How often have you asked your staff to become customers? How often have you sent your staff out to sample the competition?

5. Be Realistic about what you and your staff are able to achieve. Set targets that can be reached, then set the bar higher. Measure everything.

6. The Staff are your front line and you can’t force a smile, take care of the troops, mind them, nurture them and develop them.

7. The Managers place is on the front line with the staff, not in the office. Lead from the front, not the rear. Arrogance has no place in service. As Sydney J Harris once said … “Nobody can be as amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.”

8. Standards are important. Set your standards and train to that standard (not your competitors!) Then, take a leaf out of Henry Ford’s book. He said “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking”

Two Final Thoughts
In the book ‘Dancing at the Fountain – In conversation with world leading hoteliers’, I often quote from the interview with Bernard Murphy, Managing Director, Gleneagles, Scotland, who said “Are you doing something for me or are you doing something to me?”
Of course, it is a subtle difference and one often driven by emotion rather than service but, ‘how you made me feel’ will last a lot longer than the words, cost or even the actions.
And something simple and worth remembering;
“A hospitality business is like a theatre.
Every night when the lights go down the show is over another day is done. The next day, no matter what has gone before it, the show will have a new audience, often a first time audience, and today’s show must, at the very least, be better than the day before. The actors who will deliver the show are your people. If you do not invest in them in many ways you will have an average show. After all, what is the point of a beautiful comfortable cosy theatre with great sets, great seats and great lighting if the guys on stage have no idea what they are doing?
The leader’s job is to keep the actors acting and the audience smiling”


© Conor Kenny. All rights reserved. 2018


Conor Kenny is a specialist in sales, marketing and service, and principal of Conor Kenny & associates, a training and professional development company for service centred businesses.
He is the author of 3 books: ‘It’s Who I Am’ (Irish Times Best Business Books of the Year – 2017)
‘Dancing at the Fountain’ (Irish Examiner Best Business Books of the Year 2016) and ‘Sales Tales’ (2014).
He is also a regular columnist and commentator nationally and internationally.
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