Recently, I spent a day-long layover in an airport on my way home from visiting a client in Oklahoma. People who perceive that business travel is glamorous probably haven’t done it a lot. Don’t get me wrong: I love doing site visits with my clients! Sometimes the travel can be exhausting, but it’s also a great way for me to observe people, get some work done, and research businesses and their employees.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ sandwiches are one of my guilty pleasures. So, when I spotted a Dunkin’ Donuts near my gate, I treated myself to some lunch. When I ordered my favorite sandwich (a tuna melt on a croissant), the young cashier, Beatrice, looked confused. But she checked the board and rang up my order. After a minute, she reappeared holding a bag with my sandwich and I went to sit down.
Shortly after that, Beatrice, walked by my table at the beginning of her break and asked how my sandwich was. When I told her that it was very good, she did something unexpected – put her arms up in celebration! This was certainly not the reaction I had expected. She gave me a huge smile and told me that it was the first time that she had made the sandwich and wanted to be sure that she got it right.
So, why share a story about a low-wage airport-donut-shop employee whose achievement of the day was the successful creation of a croissant sandwich?
First of all, the most common complaint I hear from business owners (and the biggest challenge that they have) is finding employees who are actually willing to work; people who care about their jobs. People can learn skills. People can attend training classes and learn how to do their jobs and master specific tasks. But it is a very difficult challenge to train people on their attitude. A good attitude is the most important skill an employee can have; it can also be the most challenging one to find.
Positive attitude toward work, toward people, and toward responsibility takes time to grow and cultivate. Finding people who want to provide the best service and a positive customer experience can be a challenge. When you find these people, hire them! Take time to teach them. Invest in their training.
Like most people, we are all looking for positive feedback and encouragement. Beatrice simply wanted to know that she had done her job well and that her customer was satisfied. It’s a lesson for all business owners (not to mention spouses and parents). Take the time to tell someone when they have done their job well. Tell them specifically why you were happy. Tell that what they did that caused you to notice their positive contribution. All of us react very positively when we are acknowledged and appreciated. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in creating employee loyalty and employee advocacy for your business.
Conversely, when someone is not doing a good job, you owe it to them to let them know – not by yelling at them – but by explaining specifically what was not done to your satisfaction and specifically how you want it done next time. If they are a good employee (with the positive attitude mentioned above) then it is worth your time to provide the feedback that they deserve about their job performance.
If I had been dissatisfied with my sandwich, I would have taken the time to tell Beatrice what I perceived the problem to be so that she can fix it for next time – for the next customer.
Long travel layovers aren’t very fun but finding Beatrice at Dunkin’ Donuts in the Houston Hobby Airport made my day a little bit better. And I hope that she always continues to take joy in a job well done.