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By: Dr. John T. Self

Bad Customer Service is YOUR Fault

Customers never blame the real people responsible for bad customer service.

I remember asking a customer service workshop made up of restaurant managers to describe their typical employees. It was very interesting to hear them passionately describe their own employees as basically lazy, uncaring, with low standards, no work ethic, and an only-in-it-for-themselves attitude--the list went on and on with the vast majority of the traits being negative.

I wrote each trait on a black board on either the 'good' side or the 'bad' side. Not surprisingly, the 'bad' side was full, while the 'good' side was almost bare. That finished, I turned around and told them that the reason that their employees were like that was simple. The problem did not lie with the employees, but rather with themselves, the managers.

The managers were the only ones who were at fault: They either made their employees that way through a lack of feedback, or they tolerated their employees poor behavior. Either way, they had the power to hire, fire, train and develop their employees, but they chose not to. Look in the mirror and you will see who is to blame.

Not surprisingly, I got excuses, outrage and anger at my statements. After much gnashing of teeth, the majority of the group finally saw that they bore the responsibility. I have never known one employee to apply for a job with the preconceived notion of having a bad attitude, wanting to arrive late, or not caring at all. No, this is a learned condition due to attitudes established by the other employees who are tolerated by management or brought on directly by the environment generated by management.

Every manager has the capability to have excellence in his or her operation. Want to get noticed? Want to establish pride? Take charge and establish excellence.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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