Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I was WOW'ed!

Empowerment is a fave topic. It gives people across all levels, an opportunity to exercise the right option at the right moment.

Here’s what happened:

Last weekend, my wife & I went out for dinner at a restaurant. The food was good and the service was excellent! So, what made the service better than the food?!? While placing the order, we were given several options that were the restaurant’s specialty. We took sometime running through the menu and finally decided the type of food we would have. During the food-selection discussion, the waiter had scribbled our orders, taking some and cancelling some. So there. We had placed the order and waited for the food.

Ah! The food arrived and the waiter had started to place them on the table, when we realized that one of the dishes wasn’t what we ordered! Now you see, food is a picky subject, once you set your mind on eating a particular type of food, your wait gets anxious and hunger increases ten-fold. Sorry, I digress.

We (politely): Oh Oh! Excuse me; we had not placed an order for this dish. It was the other one on the menu that we had decided.

Waiter (thought for a second): Hmm…I’m really sorry.There must have been some mistake. I’ll get that dish ready and be right back. (takes the wrong order away to get the right one)

We (very impressed): Thanks a lot.

The waiter than comes back with the correct order and we enjoyed the meal.

You might notice that this incident wasn’t a very significant one. If you feel that way, you’re wrong. Really! This incident could have got out of hand, where the waiter might have:

a) Argued with us over the order (or)
b) Run away to call his manager to handle the situation

He didn’t do either! Instead, he politely apologized and got the dish we were waiting for – on time! This is a classic case of Empowerment. The restaurant needs to be appreciated for their efforts to let waiters handle situations on the spot. It gives the customers a WOW feeling, since their issue gets managed on-the-spot without escalations. They WILL tell their friends their experience. That in turn will generate more business.

We encounter similar situations at our own workplace. Managers tend to forget, when to intervene and when to let the employees manage the situation. Imagine a customer who has called your company for technical assistance for a product that had purchased. Your employee puts the customer on hold (customers hate that!), to check with the manager whether the situation demands a refund or to give the customer a replacement for the defective product. Customers act as a non-controllable marketing machine. They will talk, be it for the good or bad.

Train your managers. Let them choose the right candidates during the hiring process. Once hired, let the employees do their work.

By the way, we are going to be regulars at that restaurant. For sure.