Ugh, not another meeting.
It seems like our calendars are full of them. A 2014 study from Fuze found that more than half of us spend at least 13 hours per week in meetings.
Most of these meetings seem pretty pointless. That same Fuze study revealed 92 percent of us work on other tasks during meetings, which suggests that whatever we’re meeting about isn’t too amazing.
There’s one meeting that’s different: the huddle.
Alternatively known as a stand-up, pre-shift, line-up, or tailgate, the huddle is a short meeting designed to get everyone on the same page, discuss any pressing issues, and quickly get people back to work.
I reached out to a number of customer service leaders to see how they use the huddle to prepare their teams for success.
Patrick Maguire is a a hospitality consultant and author of the Server Not Servant blog. He suggests huddles (often called pre-meal or pre-shift meetings in restaurants) are a great way to develop a healthy service culture.
“Effective and consistent internal communications are critical in building and nurturing a culture of trust and mutual respect within every business. Pre-meal meetings in restaurants ensure that your team is prepared, confident, and aware of as much information as possible to maximize hospitality and meaningful engagement with guests.”
Jeremy Hyde, Customer Service Manager at UCare, used huddles to help his team handle rapid growth. He continues to use them to keep the team up to date.
“Initially we implemented them because we on-boarded 185,000 new members and wanted to make sure we identified issues and trends and could disseminate information quickly. We’ve continued them as an ongoing way to share information in place of longer and less frequent team meetings.”
The Ritz-Carlton uses huddles to help staff get into a customer service mind-set before the start of their shift. Here’s an excerpt from a blog post detailing their process:
“Employees benefit from an activity that will provide a transition from the mindset they ‘brought in the door’ to the mindset your organization would like them to bring to customers and patients. The Daily Line-Up gives employees the opportunity to shift gears to a work mentality before they ever meet a customer or patient.”
How to Huddle
Huddles should be short, focused meetings. Most teams have no more than three topics:
- Reinforce the service culture
- Share critical updates
- Identify any issues
Maguire outlines a number of topics that restaurant managers can draw upon. “Hospitality tips, menu and drink specials, professional and amateur reviews, social media activity, upcoming events, staff questions, and neighborhood news, are all great content for pre-meal meetings.”
Keep in mind that the huddle should be a discussion, not just announcements from the boss. Encourage participation from everyone and even consider asking others to help lead the discussion on various topics.
Alex Wyatt, Vice President of Customer Care at Gardner Dixie Sales Inc. tries to limit huddles to three to five employees plus the supervisor.
“We like to utilize small group huddles for updates or Q&A’s when call volume allows. We tend to get better participation and questions as a small group.”
How Often and How Long
Huddles should be short.
The consensus among customer service leaders I asked was no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Employees typically remain standing during a huddle to encourage a short and focused session.
Some leaders advocate daily huddles while others prefer to meet less frequently. Nate Brown, Director of Customer Experience at UL EHS Sustainability, suggests that customer service leaders consider what works best for their teams.
“I will be the odd man out here and say daily huddles are excessive in my opinion. At least in our environment it became a waste of time. I’ve moved to two huddles a week (Monday and Wednesday) which has been a very good fit for us. A good checkpoint would be immediately after the huddle to think about if it makes any actual difference to your day or not.”
Maguire reminds managers hosting pre-shift meetings to give their team a little bit of extra time to get ready for the day. “Leave at least 10 minutes between the end of the meeting and the start of service for final station checks, bathroom/smoke breaks, etc.”
The customer-focused companies I examined in The Service Culture Handbook relentlessly discussed customer service with their employees. The huddle is a great way to foster this discussion.
Here are a few questions for you. You can add your response to the comments or drop me a line.
- Do you use a huddle with your team?
- What do you typically discuss in your huddle?
- How do you keep your huddles fresh?