Recognizing Success

Huevos rancheros, scrambled, green (chile) corn tortilla on the bottom, sopapilla on the side; cheese enchilada plate, red and green, flour tortilla on the side; two eggs scrambled, red and green, beans no potatoes, wheat toast on the side.

April never wrote anything down when she took the three orders, but she repeated everything back twice – once when each individual ordered and then at the end to review. Then I noticed her go over to a computer apparently to enter the three orders. We visit this restaurant whenever we’re in town and often sit at April’s station. This time we visited twice and were served by Elena, another member of the wait team. Same thing – she didn’t write the order down. And the orders never come out wrong!

Good customer service is clearly a factor critical to superior individual performance as well as to the success of this restaurant. The food is good – it’s the first thing that attracted us to the place – as well as consistent. The same can be said for the service. On this past visit, I couldn’t help wonder if one of the behaviors that is associated with good customer service at this establishment is the ability to remember orders without writing them down in front of the customers. It’s fascinating to watch. Personally I’ve got no preference if my order is written down or not – as long as it’s right. Is it a skill they require of their wait staff? If so, how do they develop it?

Most organizations define performance factors or competencies that are tied to their values. Clearly, in any organization that deals with the public, customer service is an important competency that all employees need to possess. What does good customer service look like across the organization? For the establishment to be successful, behavioral expectations or success factors, need to be defined so that employees know what is expected of them and what success looks like in their individual job.

Let’s look at this restaurant. April, Elena, and the rest of the wait staff are friendly, courteous, and can take (and submit) your order without error. The cooks in the back are responsible for preparing good tasting food and for preparing the order the way the wait staff submits it. If there are errors, April and Elena will let them know. As a customer, I don’t interact with the cooks in the back, so I don’t know if they are friendly and courteous – and if they aren’t, it doesn’t necessarily affect my dining experience in an adverse way. The hostesses and the cashiers also add to the experience by being friendly, efficient and accurate when it comes to handling the money. They are also flexible when you ask to be seated in a certain spot – assuming availability. The “busboys” that assist the wait staff make sure that the tables are cleaned and set up – water, eating utensils, napkins, etc – and clear them when diners are finished. Collectively, they all add to the customer service experience, but their individual behaviors are different depending upon the role they play in the organizations.

If you want to develop a model for performance success for your organization, consider the following:

· Define performance factors that are tied to your organization’s values. Don’t try to copy them from someone else.
· Describe the standards of behavior for each performance factor. Doing so allows your employees to know what is expected of them.
· Behaviors can and should be different for each job family in your organization and for each level of job within those families.

If you develop a performance model (or competency model), employees will be able to look at it and answer the question “What does good customer service look like in my job” (or quality, or communication skills, or any other performance factor you’ve deemed important).


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