In this article, I wanted to take a moment to discuss something I find really concerning. Lately it would seem everywhere I go many businesses have signs up about being polite to staff and being respectful to other customers – this is even included in airline safety procedures. Bit sad!
What’s going on our society today that so many businesses have signage up asking their customers to please be respectful? Where do we as customers get off thinking that it’s okay to be abusive to frontline staff who are just doing their job?
I often talk about the training requirements of frontline teams and ensuring you have your Aces In The Right Places the right people, in the right places. I’m passionate about good customer service.
But even if they’re not the right people, it doesn’t give us as customers the right to be rude, abusive, take our frustrations out on people who are just trying to do their job. No one deserves it.
I remember watching people boarding planes as the rules for wearing masks was introduced in Australia – masks were required to fly, and the staff were consistently having to ask people to put their masks on as they entered the plane, over and over again and to have to deal with the responses. Not that people were abusive necessarily, but they were difficult and somewhat rude.
We can only imagine how tedious it was for the staff, who were unable to allow people to board without wearing a mask not to mention the impact of holding up the line to board the plane. It must be exhausting. I was exhausted just watching the interactions.
I feel there is a better way. It all comes back to systems. For example, they could have implemented the mask check earlier when they passed their boarding pass at the gate.
Even so, it still prompts the question, what’s going on in todays society that the public feel we have this right now to be disrespectful to others and abusive?
Standing In The Employees Shoes
I often talk about standing in the shoes of the customer, and how that practice creates great customer loyalty in fact I have even written an article on it Standing In The Shoes Of The Customer Creates Great Customer Loyalty in this article however, I think we all need to stand in the shoes of the Employee.
I was taught and I always teach this when working with my clients, when it comes to you knowing your staff it is important to understand what it’s like for them when dealing with difficult or abusive customers and why they might be really frustrated and annoyed. If you can get into their world, not only does it help to bring down their angst and speak to their feelings, but it also creates the space for you to respond consciously.
And to be able to create training programs to support your staff deal with these situations. As we have discussed in other articles, there is a responsibility of each businesses to provide each staff member with the tools to deal with people and how not to escalate these situations.
We have worked with a very prominent high end nightclub in Melbourne, and I was so impressed about how they dealt with people. Every staff member is trained in deescalating situations before they got escalated. How? Through their systems.
The security team met all customers on entry they were very friendly and very good at screening people and very good at deescalating situations. My point is, that whilst they are greeting each customer, they are also assessing people, they take a picture of their licence, so people know that they know who they are.
The intention of the system is to deescalate any issues before they arise and minimize the variation.
Hospitality staff who are trained are highly skilled at dealing with people, they will avoid at all costs, any physical altercations.
In my experience most staff try and do the best job they can. I’ve trained 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of frontline team members, and I have met very few who actively go out of their way to do a bad job.
The Practice Of Acting With Consciousness
I’ve actually been working on this for myself, to act consciously rather than to be my reaction, temper, or tiredness.
And it reminds me of a story. When I was a teacher back many, many years ago we were allowed to use the leather strap. It was a strap of leather about 12 inches long and teachers were allowed to beat their students if they believed it was the right thing to do, the right form of punishment.
I didn’t have a strap. I knew a few teachers in my school who did and didn’t hesitate to use it either. One day though I was so angry with a student I went to get one. Before my colleague gave me the strap he just said, “just before I give it to you Craig, there is something I want to share with you.” He proceeded to recommend that I wait to the end of the day and at that time if I still believe it is the appropriate punishment, all right then.
During my 11 years of teaching, how many children do you think I used that form of punishment on?
That’s right, absolutely none. I was acting consciously not from anger.
That piece of advise is something I have never forgotten and still use to this day. I never respond until the end of the day!
No matter what industry your business is in, at a time when it is extremely difficult to find, recruit and retain great frontline staff simply because they are tired of and no longer want to put up with difficult or abusive customers, it is critical to create service standards and train your frontline staff in the ability to deescalate these situations.
I’m inviting you to take on the practice of acting with consciousness and not let your own angst or whatever’s going on for you drive your actions.
If you would like to have a chat with me about ‘providing your team with the tools they need to deescalate difficult situations’ contact me I look forward to hearing from you.