The Five Most Important Questions for Every Employee

© Holly Stiel

Over the years I have been asked countless times, “How do we make training stick?” and “How can we create and become the kind of company that revolves around service?” They know they want the type of environment and the type of employees who live and breathe service — creating a grand experience for the customer and renown for their property and brand.

While I get asked these questions often, I find the commitment to do the work required to actually have such a company culture is not as enticing to these executives and managers as the idea of it. It’s like wanting to be thin and buff but not wanting to eat a healthy diet and exercise. Some clients claim they want a “Sea Change” when it comes to their customers’ service experience. They say, “We want to have concierge-type services. We want our people to behave like the employees of The Four Seasons.” When I tell them what is involved in actually having this type of service culture they usually say, “Well, we didn’t mean exactly like the Four Seasons — something sort of like that, something easy!” Well, there isn’t partway (like partially pregnant) when it comes to superb customer service a la The Four Seasons model. What I think they are really asking for is a Vitamin C pill or a shot of B-12 – an easy fix. It doesn’t work that way to create a total Sea Change. Actually, creating a service and customer experienced based company culture is quite simple. It’s not easy, just deceptively simple!

To get started, let go of lip service, and commit to doing the work required. In order to create and sustain a service culture there are five important questions that employees must be able to answer in order to be able to make their best contribution. I like to think of them as The High Five! These deceptively simple questions are:

  • What do you want me to do?
  • Why do you want me to do it?
  • How do you want me to do it?
  • How will I know how I’m doing?
  • How will you help me improve?

I know these sound like easy and very common sense questions, but I challenge you to answer them for yourself and then ask every employee in your company to answer them and see if they can. Chances are they won’t be able to.

Let’s take the questions and answer them one by one.

1. What do you want me to do?

I am constantly amazed at how many employees don’t really understand this simple question. Either the company has never told them what their standards are and what is expected of them or the company has told them once at orientation and then never mentioned it again. The “What?” here can be answered by a good set of standards, which are different from the job description or S.O.P’s. They are over-arching standards for professional conduct.

If a company strays from their standards, they will ultimately be less effective and open up the possibility for inconsistency at best and chaos at worst. It is like having a lawless society when you run it without standards. Having standards, however, is not enough. Enforcing them is the critical element that is missing in so many unfortunate service interactions. It is having standards and holding people accountable to them that make it possible to manage effectively and have the desired outcome.

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