Customer Service and Workplace Safety

I am writing this post as I sit on a bench in front of the Davidson, NC Homewood Suites.  As I sat working on documents, I struck up a conversation with an employee, who was emptying the trash and straightening up outside.  I’ll call him “Nate.”  One could and should use Nate’s example to train professionals, including members of my benighted species, lawyers.

Nate greeted customers, some of whom knew him from past visits.  As staff arrived, everyone received a cheery greeting.  At some point our occasional conversation veered to customer service.  Nate, like any professional, was “purposeful.”  I suspect that he is a genuinely good guy, and his friendliness was integral to his character.  However, he also told me that he knew that his job security at Homewood was intertwined with making people feel “at home.”  This statement was not corporate-generated.  Nate meant his words.

We talked about how a single good or bad experience can undue years of good efforts or can create lasting loyalty.  Nate explained that if he cleans a restroom, he is fastidious about it, because few things more turn off a guest than dirty public restrooms.  As a constant traveler, I pondered nice hotels whose public restrooms were dirty, and concluded that they never got my return business.  Nate was “analytical” about customer service.

Nate talked about what he liked about work and it was his co-workers and the atmosphere.  Later, I saw an attractive professional woman give him a quick hug in greeting as she entered the hotel.  The professional woman was the General Manager, and as she greeted staff with genuine pleasure, I better understood the hotel atmosphere.  Everyone takes pride in their job, feels a part of delivering the product, and takes an enterprise view of their job.  Just ask the kitchen staff, whose eggs I have eaten for five years, and they will express their pride in creating variety in those same eggs.  They want the hotel to shine.  Even when swamped, I have not heard them whine.  And keep in mind that while a nice property, it is not a luxury property or one of those extraordinary gems like the Davidson Village Inn down the road.  Yet their customer service is superb.

So what’s the relevance to safety?  We all know to do certain things to ensure an engaged and productive workforce, but we are inconsistent and we are not purposeful in our efforts to create this atmosphere.  So here’s my lessons for safety:

1.         Effective Safety Programs will not occur in an atmosphere where employees do not feel as if they have a role in the organization’s success.  We focus so much on self-actualization and meeting an employee’s psychological needs, but common sense and various studies show that employees’ greatest work need, after basic needs are satisfied, is to have a sense that they contribute to the organization’s success.  I am convinced that sense of one’s role is one of several reasons that the 9000 employee Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is on the best places to work lists every year.

2.         Neglecting safety is a clear message that you don’t care about employees, so don’t be surprised if the employees in turn, do not care about their work and your customers.

3.         Especially in construction and the manufacturing sectors, involving employees in safety is an effective way to focus employees on their role in the enterprises success.

My readers already recognize these suggestions, but are we “purposefully” encouraging the atmospheric that keeps the Nates coming to work and impressing customers?  Do our actions substantiate our statements that we are “pro-employee” and that “safety is number one?”

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
This entry was posted in attitude/culture, cultural changes, employee engagement, hospitality, management and leadership, retail, supervisor development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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