I was at a business luncheon a few years ago where Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was the featured speaker. He related a story where he and his family had stopped at a pumpkin patch, and noticed that the arrow on the sign for the patch was pointing the wrong direction to the pumpkins. It pointed across the street, where there were no pumpkins.
Confused, Gilbert said he approached the guy working at the patch and asked why the sign pointed the wrong direction. He was told by the pumpkin guy that he just worked there and that last year, the pumpkins were actually sold on the other side of the street. It struck Gilbert that 1) It was ridiculous that the sign was obviously wrong and 2) The employee felt he had no authority to right the wrong. Gilbert took photos of the patch and its sign and showed them to us to illustrate how silly it all was.
I had my own Dan Gilbert moment recently, but it turned out entirely different.
I recently booked two hotel rooms, one for my family and another for a guest, for a single night.
We went to breakfast the next morning and when the guest returned to his room, housekeeping was already turning over the room, even though the guest hadn’t checked out of his room. In fact, it was more than five hours before the stated checkout time. This isn’t the way hotels are supposed to operate.
I approached the front desk and explained to the employee there what happened. She was shocked. The woman immediately got on the phone and made a call. I walked away thinking that while she was apparently chewing out a staffer, nothing more would come of it.
Upon checking out, she told me that it should never have happened and that the room was being comped. I was only paying for one room. While I hadn’t asked for this, nevertheless, I thought it was fair as I’ve stayed at this hotel many times and spent a decent amount of money there. I did some math in my head: Based on the check-in and check-out time, you get the room for 16 hours. We got 11 out of that room.
Because the employee wasn’t a manager, what she did surprised me. She had the authority (or least she thought she did!) to take matters into her own hands and rectify the situation, on the spot and without hesitation. It was refreshing, to say the least.
How many times have you dealt with someone in customer service who needed to call someone before they could offer any kind of resolution to a problem? If an employee working with the public possesses no authority other than the ability to request an ID if a credit card is being used for payment, your business could be suffering. And if your employees aren’t empowered to much of anything, chances are, they don’t feel very good about where they work.