Riddell: Customers like smiles | SkyHiNews.com

Riddell: Customers like smiles

John Riddell
Not Business As Usual

John Ridell writes a business column and a fun, Zoomer-Boomer outdoor column for the Sky-Hi News.

Nowhere is the multiplying effect of management and leadership more acute than in the ownership of service businesses. While many owners and managers have certainly read and understand that what they say and do cascades down through the organization, many never stop to think how this conduct ultimately affects their bottom line.

Consider for a moment the restaurant owner who unfortunately has a flat tire on the way to work, and by the way, it is another day of rain and cold and muddy clothes are also a casualty. Upon arriving at work, a less than pleasant disposition is immediately conveyed to the waitstaff who also has had to deal with the dismal weather and now that demeanor is carried to the customers. Customers do not frequent restaurants to be reminded of how miserable things are. Why pay good money to share misery? While a hot cup of coffee can do wonders, a pleasant smile and a friendly manner is just as important.

Now offset this with the professional owner/manager who experiences the same flat tire event, but instead, sucks it up, recognizes his or her leadership role, and does not let this uncontrollable event negatively affect his controllable attitude. Treating the whole episode with a positive approach sends a positive multiplying message to employees. Reinforcing this message with a direct conversation with employees emphasizing their responsibility to make the customers' experience as enjoyable as possible is certainly appropriate. Customers return and do future business with people and places they enjoy. Interestingly enough, for the waitstaff, improved tips are also a positive outcome of shared good humor.

The underlying message is we are here, as a business, solely to find and keep customers. Providing customers with a pleasant environment populated with upbeat, positive employees, is not expecting too much. Said differently, in today's competitive environment where oftentimes there is little to significantly distinguish the product offerings, the customer friendly attitude of the employees is what wins over and keeps customers coming back. This is simply good business.

The customer friendly attitude of the employees is what wins over and keeps customers coming back.

Reward Employees

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Now the proactive manager certainly knows and recognizes this but the real professional devises some method of measuring and reward for success in this area. Programs can vary, but one very inexpensive and effective process involves simply letting the employees vote each month for the employee they feel has the best attitude. Maybe the reward is simply a $20 gift certificate, but the underlying intent becomes very clear. As a side note, these employees with the above average positive attitude almost always have this positive attitude rub off on the other employees. Ultimately it comes across to the customers. Again, this is simply good business.

Running a sustainably successful business is not that complicated. It usually just boils down to doing a whole lot of little things right and trying your best to do them right the first time. Certainly maintaining and projecting a positive attitude is one of these "right" things, and it does not call for any financial investment. And while the positive financial results might not be immediately obvious, this focus will succeed. You'll find yourself attracting and keeping more customers, and also attracting and keeping better employees. This is simply how you keep a business good.

Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.

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