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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Column: Witnessing the worst, and best in customer service

  • One way to pass time on the road is to observe business management styles at hotels and restaurants.
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  • The last day in Arizona featured the best and worst of customer service and business management. First, a hotel. I won't name the establishment because I met the sleaze bag owner and I know he would sue me, even if what I write here is true.
        What was a comfortable, if dated, hotel when I stayed three years ago has turned into a sleazy den of iniquity.  The desk clerk lied , saying that if the Internet didn't work, it was my computer's fault.  "Don't listen to those lying bimbos," said the janitor I when I asked him about the wireless. "The Internet hasn't worked in that wing for months."
        It was no surprise when we walked into the room after dinner to find soggy ceiling panels on the floor with water splashing on the carpet from leaking pipes above. I called the front desk. It was clear the leaking pipes were my fault. Big sigh. I said we would be happy to leave. She said, nope, you already paid, we'll get you another room. Sigh. As I waited for new keys at the front desk, the clerks bickered. One ran off sobbing to the sales manager's office. The other called the owner and said, "she's givin' me attitude!"
        I checked out the next morning only to find that I was charged $50 extra for the replacement room. I knew not to argue. Online reviews, which I should have read much earlier, said the owner would scream, holler, yell and not give an inch.
        After checking out of Hades, it was time to find breakfast. Random choice: U. S. Egg in Tempe, AZ.
        Saturday morning. Big breakfast crowd. Bustling restaurant. Yet we were seated immediately, given coffee immediately, fed almost immediately and were back in the car 25 minutes later. The college students waiting tables hustled to the point of jogging. Overseers with walkie-talkies sped things along. The maitre d', if you can call the head honcho at at greasy spoon such a lofty title, dispatched his troops with calm confidence. The little restaurant whirred with activity and purred with competence. The employees, to a person, looked to be enjoying themselves.
        One way to pass time on the road is to observe business management styles at hotels and restaurants. Which establishments are happy places? Which restaurants work? Why? Which are failures? Why? This restaurant worked. Brilliantly. I asked the maitre d', "who runs this place?"
        "I do," he replied. I wasn't surprised. The best restaurants are those where the boss greets the customers.
        The genius of the breakfast place wasn't only that people were getting fed quickly and well. It was that the people doing the work were so obviously happy.
    Page 2 of 2 -     We talk about helping professions: the ministry, nursing, medicine, teaching, social work, psychology, counseling, the like. All noble pursuits.  
        But what about the above managers, like the above maitre d', who create a joyful, fulfilling workplace?
        Most people spend the bulk of their best years at a job. Most people in jobs are miserable. The problem? Usually bad management.
        An uncle of mine was a psychologist and tried to help people with their problems. He grew tired of seeing the same silliness over and over, so he changed professions.
        In his second career, he became president of a company which employed 1,000 people.
        I visited the company on a typical work day and later attended a company party.
        What fun! Everybody was relaxed. Nobody was afraid to be themselves, nobody put on airs to climb the corporate ladder.
        All employees seemed in their groove. All were on board with the company's mission. They felt productive and respected.
        So, where did my uncle most help humanity, in a traditional helping profession as a counselor untangling marital issues one by one with mixed results, or as a capitalistic boss who created a joyful atmosphere for 1,000 people to use their talents?
        Hands down, his second job benefited humanity more than the first.
        My question: Why isn't business management regarded as a noble pursuit?
        The best companies to work for, such as Google and Southwest Airlines, make money by making sure their employees enjoy their days.
        The worst businesses, such as the above unnamed hotel, torment their parade of workers for years and years, sending ripples of misery into families and customers alike.
        It doesn't make for a rousing rallying cry, but maybe what the world really needs is a few good managers.
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