Do You Have a Mrs. Not-Helpful Working for You?


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We know what we look like. We see ourselves each day, from the bathroom mirror while brushing our teeth, to combing our hair, to one last look at how our clothes fit before we rush out the door to work. But is that how others see us?

Here’s what happened to me today…

I went to get my hair cut today from my usual hairstylist, gone are the days of the Italian barber but that’s another story. My appointment was for 12 noon with Susanna but she wasn’t in. I mentioned to another stylist that I had a 12 o’clock appointment with Susanna and we both checked the appointment book.

As we scanned the listings I pointed to my name in the book and said “Here I am, 12 noon with Susanna”. “Oh, I don’t know” was the reply from the soon-to-be-not-very-helpful-stylist.

“Oh, I don’t know”, she said again, “I don’t know where she is” was her last retort as she walked away.

I stood there, at the front counter, dumbfounded, as I watched the woman walk away. Did she walk away to see if Susanna was in the back of the store? Did she go to get the phone to call her? Did she do anything to help me? NO, she didn’t.

She just left me there. If it wasn’t because I have been going to Susanna for quite a while I would have walked out immediately but I needed to find out what happened. So I patiently waited.

“Mrs. Not-helpful” didn’t have any customers, surprise surprise, so she just walked around the store talking to the other stylists. And still no help from her.

While waiting, I wondered, don’t people realize how they appear to others?

Our actions, mannerisms, speech, mode of dress, and a host of other things are being judged by those around you. Whether correct or not an impression is made based on these signals we send out. Are we so immune from our surroundings, from the people we deal with, that we don’t even realize how we appear to others?

Is this how we want others to see us?

Whether it’s an arms-crossed position taken by one friend speaking with another, to a person biting their nails while waiting for a job interview, or a teenage girl twirling her hair during a conversation with the high school star football player, our initial actions are the basis for much of the relationships we have with our friends, family and especially our customers.

I wondered why this stylist didn’t realize how her inaction created such a negative impression of her. Or did she even care? I don’t know (now it was my turn to say that).

Long story short, within 5 minutes of me waiting, Susanna came into the store and apologized profusely for being late and making me wait. “Oh Steve, I’m very sorry for making you wait, I got stuck in traffic as I was coming back from lunch, it’s my fault”, Susanna said.

She quickly escorted me to her station and couldn’t be nicer as she turned her talents to my mane of hair. We entered into a few conversations about our kids, where we planned to go on vacation and the latest neighborhood news. Susanna made me feel welcome, like part of the family.

Before long I was walking out the door and felt the breeze through my short hair, it felt good. So good that I almost forgot about how bad I felt when I first entered the store.

How can two employees of the same business be so different in their approach to customer service?

Is it the fault of the business? Do they lack an appropriate training process? Are the staff’s actions monitored for service and “coached” if found to be poor?

Or maybe it’s just the difference between a good and bad employee.

What if I wasn’t so happy with Susanna? Would I continue to return to this store? Would I complain to the manager or just never go back?

Sure, there will always be a few customers that complain to management in the hopes of getting their issue resolved but most customers just never go back.

Management will usually hear the great reviews of a star performer like Susanna but what about the underperformers like “Mrs. Not-helpful”?

Do you voice your concerns to management about her? If you were the manager of the store would you welcome customer feedback about her even if you knew it would be poor?

How long can you afford to deal with an employee that “doesn’t know”?

Steve DiGioia
Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.


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