Driving Staff Reviews, Training, and Retention Through Customer Feedback

By Richard D. Hanks Chairman and President, Mindshare Technologies | April 15, 2010

When was the last time you had to do a negative performance review with one of your employees? I mean the kind where you are the bearer of bad news and have to lay down the law in a forceful manner?

This type of performance review can be one of the most painful and yet delicate interactions that a manager can have with an employee. In this article, I address a simple, yet effective way to offset two of the more difficult issues related to this type of employee review. They are - (1) the subjective nature of the manager's "evidence" for change, and (2) the "selective memory" of most employees when presented with performance weaknesses.


The bottom-line summary is this: Let your customers provide real-time feedback, specific to each service employee, as close to the service experience as possible. In this way, you'll be presenting the literal voice of the customer to the employee, and the suggestions for improvement will be direct, applicable, and devoid of the inherent bias that is present in all employee-supervisor relationships. Specific training needs will be highlighted and employee retention will go up.

"My Subjective Boss"

I wish I had a nickel for every time I listened to an employee appeal their performance review with these words, "This isn't a fair review, because my boss doesn't like me." This accusation is usually followed with examples of the boss giving more positive performance evaluations to others in the department because, "The boss likes them better." It seems to be an almost unavoidable part of human nature to throw up a defensive posture when confronted by our weaknesses. Another often-used defense is to blame the human bias of those who are asked to subjectively judge us. "She's not fair. She doesn't like my politics. We were peers, and then he got promoted to be my boss. He's holding a grudge, etc."

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.