Give your team the power to act within your service-centric workplace.

I recently took a trip to Turkey. What a beautiful place! Full of culture, history and a myriad of experiences. Plenty of opportunities to go back in time in this 2600-year-old city, browse the famous mosques, bazaars, and palaces, while at the same time seeing the future unfold around you with an expansion of the city and its state of the art buildings on the rise. I checked into my hotel, the Ferman Hotel Old City (remove the name from Training Mag version), and was very excited. I had booked a city view, which would be of the famous Blue Mosque, in one of their superior rooms. It was going to be a sight to behold. Or so I thought! My bubble was about to be burst. I checked in, and the desk clerk informed me that this room type was not available, so they had downgraded me to a standard room. The room was in the basement, with no views, next to the street and that was that. (It sounded more like a dungeon than a hotel room. I could already envision my included breakfast coming through a slot in the door.

I was stunned about the news. But after a long trip from Canada, I was too tired to care at that point. I went to my dungeon and went to bed. After being unchained In the morning, I went back to the front desk and asked about the room issue from the night before. The desk clerk told me that I had no options and I wouldn’t be changing rooms that day either. I was in Istanbul, and I was excited. I accepted my fate, and after all, I was out and about in the city. I didn’t really need the view. It was okay. So, I then asked for a refund. I was fine to stay in my dungeon room, but I wanted to receive the difference I paid for the Superior room to the Standard room. It sounds reasonable, don’t you think?

Think again. Like any true prison experience, prisoners don’t get what they want. “No, no! We are going to move you on the last day. We have a sea view for you! We can’t offer you a refund.” Moving on my last day wasn’t in the cards for me. I had already unpacked everything, and I had meetings for my entire day organized from early morning to early evening. I didn’t have time to make a room change.

Unsatisfied, and based on the principle of the fact that I didn’t receive what I had already paid for, I called American Express Travel (my booking agent). “You will have to speak with the hotel. This booking belongs to a tour operator that we use. They will have to deal with this.” Again, I was shocked. No one wanted to help me, and no one had the power to do anything. Something that was simple and easy, as in, getting a small refund, now turned into my personal mission. In about 20 minutes, I went from being slightly disappointed to extremely annoyed

As you can imagine, I was left feeling less-than great about both experiences. However, after the prison break, I pondered what happened in these scenarios. It really just highlighted now these team members were not empowered to do the right the thing and didn’t have the proper training to handle my situation, which in theory, should have been an easy fix. With that in mind, here are some simple lessons that all managers should keep in mind when working with their team members.

There is nothing worse than explaining your issues to someone and hoping they can do something to help you.

1. Give your team members the power to make things right.

First and foremost, your team needs to have the authority to make the experience right. They shouldn’t have to check with you to make someone happy and to resolve issues. There is nothing worse than explaining your issues to someone and hoping they can do something to help you, only to get the “I will have to check with my manager and see what he/she says about this.” Why not send a message via carrier pigeon? This type of approach belongs in that era.

Give your team the power to please, resolve and to empathize with your customers. The magic should be in their hands, not left for a great, all-knowing, powerful Oz, I mean manager, to come in and save the day. By the time the issue comes to a manager, it has probably already escalated because it wasn’t dealt with properly and in a timely fashion. The frustration levels are already higher than they should be and this negative situation could lead to more compensation and a more difficult time recovering the issues.

2. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Use your time wisely.

It is much better to be proactive, rather than reactive. Don’t wait until your customer has complained online or written a bad comment card. Rushing to resolve an issue at that time is needed, but seems a bit careless. Look for opportunities to fix or inform about issues before they escalate. If someone is expressing their discontent or you know that there could be a problem, take the time to provide a solution or options before it gets to the complaint stage. You might find that people are more understanding when they have been warned about something before it even happens. This would also give your customers time to prepare themselves.

Many businesses are afraid to tell customers of potential issues that will arise and hope that they go unnoticed. WHY? That is a poor way to run a company, in our opinion. We all know the expression that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but is that really true? In today’s world of online reviews and social media, customers broadcast bad experiences to millions with the touch of a button, photos and videos included! Even if your clients forgive you, the anger can cause people to send that in-the-moment tweet or Instagram tag that picture. They might forgive you later, but the damage is already done.

3. Apologize.

Don’t be afraid to apologize for the experience that someone is having. GASP, regardless of who is at fault, you can always apologize for the emotion that they are feeling. When someone is feeling annoyed, frustrated, or just anything less-than positive, we want to let them know that we care about their feelings. By showing you care about how they feel, you indicate your willingness to work on their issue, no matter what it might be.

During my experience in Turkey, I heard a lot of excuses and things that could or might happen, but an apology was not forthcoming. This just made the whole experience seem less genuine. Like they didn’t care about the experience of their guests.

4. Train your team to say the right things or at least what not to say.

We often train our team in what they should say. We have many great phrases and service statements to get to the root of issues, encourage feedback and impress the guests, but what about what we shouldn’t say. It might seem like common sense, but in reality, many team members don’t always have the best filter. We often hear them belittle management, or tell the customer “this happens all of the time,” or “It doesn’t really matter to me personally”! Whatever the case, over sharing can result in the agent being taken less-than seriously, looking unprofessional and that can give your organization a bad reputation since it looks like a mess.

In general, we would recommend that your team members not share:

  • their thoughts on management and co-workers.
  • the frequency of a situation.
  • the fact that the outcome doesn’t affect them.
  • give tips on how to complain.
  • information or thoughts about other customers.
  • their ideas about cultures, politics, etc.

All of these can get us into “hot water,” or at least change someone’s opinion about us. Back to my Turkey experience, I was told by the front desk agent that “Management doesn’t really care, and whatever you want to do doesn’t matter to me, so go ahead and complain bro.” Can you see the message this sent? I sure did!

In the end, I am still working on getting my refund, but let’s just say I won’t be returning to the hotel, nor making future hotel bookings with American Express. Customers learn from their experiences, and when your customers walk out your door, will they want to repeat yours? We hope so!

Want to improve customer service at your location?

Meet the trainer!

Allow us to introduce you to the team member whose experience knowledge went into this post

Kevin James
Kevin James
Kevin James Saunders is one of the expert trainers with over 20 years of experience and thousands of sessions under his belt at Oculus Training, a boutique corporate learning company based in Vancouver, Canada. We don't have titles around here, but, he’s the one of the bosses! After “slaving away” for a large training firm, Kevin James felt he just wasn’t having any fun! The content he was required to deliver was like old stale bread; bland and unfulfilling. As the saying goes, if you want something done right, do it differently. So, in 2007, Oculus was born and KJ was on board with this exciting new venture. Yipee! Although he has been known to tell a joke or two...or three, he is not just about a fun time. There is more to this man! He did fill his head with some scholarly tidbits from the College Saint-Charles-Garnier, Memorial University and the University of Quebec. If that wasn’t enough, he continued to grow his brain by finishing his Masters Degree in Organizational Change & Development in the United Kingdom. KJ knew that your book-smarts only benefit you when put into practice! That is why he gained practical work experience in Human Resources, Marketing, Hotel Sales, and Operations. Nifty! We wouldn’t want to brag too much, but he has worked with such companies as Mercedes-Benz, DevSisters, USA Today, Moody-Nolan, Signature Worldwide, and Pan Pacific Hotels. Let’s not forget Fairmont Hotels, SPCA, Atlific, LeadPages, Marriott Hotels, ADT, Security and , to name a few. Plus, he has conducted and helped design thousands of training sessions throughout his career. (That does sound like bragging, doesn’t it?) He currently resides in Sevilla; when he is not out galavanting around the world.If you can pin him down, tell us how that happens! He never shows up for dinner!

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