The Focus of Service Leadership

The new billboard proclaimed the El Casa de Adjetivo on 2nd Street as having the best Mexican food in town.  We had driven by the restaurant many times but never given it a try.  We are major fans of great Mexican food—not the fast food type, but the kind that tastes imported directly from Monterey.  So, into the restaurant we went.  The ambiance was nice; real Mexican music was playing in the background.  Our waitress greeted us with menus and a warm welcome.

However, the great experience ended almost as soon as it began.  My wife ordered a glass of Chablis.  When the waitress brought Chardonnay and my wife complained, the friendly retort was, “Sorry, I picked up the wrong bottle.”  We both ordered extra beans but no rice.  And, we both got rice.  My wife had to ask twice for a glass of ice.  I ordered a side of fresh cut, raw, super-hot jalapenos, not pickled ones.  You can guess at this point what I was served.

When we paid our bill at the cash register we asked why the service had so many mistakes. “We have a new owner,” said the employee as he handed us our receipt.  “And, he is all about what happens in our kitchen.”  How was our food?  Great!  But, the service experience?  Terrible!  Their billboard was completely accurate.  But, leadership completely missed the point that most service outcomes (e.g., the food) are enveloped in a service experience.  If asked by a neighbor if the restaurant should be on their “must do” list, we will suggest they get their food “to go!”

The focus of leadership telegraphs priority to employees.  The leader who stresses over budget minutia, the one who ballyhoos sales no matter what, and the one who insists on operational efficiency all send a laser like message about where to put attention.  They provide the default for all “too close to call” decisions.  The adage “It’s not what’s expected; it’s is what is inspected” tells the tale about true significance!  As a leader, what do you get anger about, passionate about, pound the table over, spend air time in meetings about?  Is your focus sending the very best message to your front-line who is constantly seeking guidance about what matters?



About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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