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Getting The Most From Your Service Job

Cassy has a nice article up on how servers should treat customers. It follows an earlier article which seemed to dictate what customers owe to servers. Along the way, a lively discussion happened regarding the world of restaurants and service jobs. I decided to post an article from my own experience.

For eleven years, I managed movie cinemas in three Texas cities. Cinema management is not widely respected as a career by most people, but I managed a staff of up to 60 employees, all of whom I hired, trained, and directly-or-indirectly supervised and managed, which is to say I worked hard to get the best work out of them I could, and in so doing also purused maximum opportunities for them. My locations brought in as much as $12 million in a year, and that was when ticket prices were a lot lower, but more to the point my locations were profitable and popular. This article is about how a service employee can get promoted, earn raises and bonuses, and create opportunity for their future.

I start by noting that I have no intention of telling customers what they should do. That's because the kind of people who would consider advice on how to treat service employees are the sort of people who already understand that a courteous person tries to treat everyone as a person, and with respect. It also seems to me that almost everyone has, is, or will work in a service position. And in most cases, the service job is not optimal, but something taken to pay the bills or because it is what is available. So here are my tips on how to get the most out of a service job:

- continued -

1. Think about what the customer wants, and make sure they get that. If doing something would annoy you, do not do it to the customer. Always remember the customer has a choice on where they spend their money, and you want and need to make a strong, good impression.

2. You are there to make money for your employer - Call it cold-blooded, but you get paid because you make enough profit to justify your pay. Any competent boss giving out raises or promotions will give them to the people whose work justifies that extra cost. If you want a raise or promotion, convince your boss that you are worth more than you are getting now. Make your boss look good, so he will see you as an ally, or better, as an essential player he needs to keep for his own success.

3. Smile, dammit! Look, not very many people go to work because it's what they want the most; they need to pay the bills and that's why they work. The simple economics of service are that if you make the customer happy, they buy more and you look good, and if you make your co-workers happy, they will help you when you need it and again you will look good. So don't dwell on outside problems if you can let them go for your shift, and think of your co-workers as people you are glad to see and glad to help.

4. Know your job. Smart people impress customers, and knowing where things are and how they work means fixing problems quicker and avoiding them more easily. Being able to answer questions and help folks also makes you look like you're in charge, which does indeed help you get considered for promotion.

5. All Service Jobs Have Downsides - You are free to apply for any job you desire, and that means that no matter how much you may hate your job at some point, you should not forget that you asked for it. Also, some other place may look really good, but since most jobs have some service functions, that means that everyone has to go through some amount of downside. Among other things, that means don't feel like everyone else has it better than you do. They do not, in almost every case.

6. Every job has regular customers. Get to know them and greet them by name. That sets you apart and gets you remembered.

7. Do more than you have to, every day. In my experience, what most employees think is 'average' is actually below average, and what most impresses employers is the employee who thinks ahead and beyond their own immediate duties. When an employee goes above and beyond on a regular basis, one of two things will happen. Either the manager/owner notices and realizes they have an exceptional asset, one they cannot easily replace if that employee leaves, and they will make sure that employee is happy. Or, customers will observe an employee working at a level well above their apparent duties, and those who own their own business may make an offer, while others will make an opportunity known to the employee. Many of my best employees were quickly promoted, and the ones who weren't were always - always - snapped up by other businesses.

8. Never forget the standards. Be on time, dress right and display confidence in your ability and pride in your company and your work team. Show your identity through superior performance, always looking for improvement. Because any work position you hope will lead you to success will demand those attributes from your first day.

OK, so maybe you're not impressed, thinking this means that movie employees only get to be senior movie employees by working hard. Not so, though. When I ran the Spectrum 9 Cinema, for example, I had floor employees promoted to site manager positions, and several employees got fine offers, like the concession worker who was offered a $20/hour position with a Galleria boutique, or a doorman who went on to an Annapolis appointment, who told me that the work ethic he developed at the cinema impressed his Congressman and showed up in his grades, personal standards, and community reputation. Another of my employees got an internship with a stock broker because of his sharp mind and courteous practices and salesmanship. I took a great deal of pride in helping my employees plan career paths, so that when they left the cinema they would get better-paying, higher-profile positions. Service jobs are part of your resume, and like any job it's up to you what you make them worth.


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Comments (2)

DJ,Great posts. R... (Below threshold)


Great posts. Reminds of my first few jobs, all service. Second toughest boss I ever had was my Dad. He understood customer service and sales and expected 100% and got it. I delivered newspapers for years, and learned a lot from my manager, and from the customers. Big lesson, that "special" treatment for a customer wasn't that hard, and made a huge difference in their life. Having learned how to work, relate to a boss and customer has made a huge difference in my life. My toughest boss (today and forever) has been a Jewish Carpenter, his expectations are out of this world.

DJ,After years of wo... (Below threshold)

After years of working retail when I was "coming up" and then later as a salaried employee working in politics then the utility industry, I was nodding my head at each point. Even the jobs I've had that wouldn't be classified as service jobs, I've still had a "customer" to keep happy. Other departments in my company rely on my work to enable their work, etc. No customer will ever meet me as I go about my job or know the impact I have on the reliability or price of their energy. But I can make or break my 'internal' customers' day, and this ripples outward. My company is too big for almost anything I do to be visible to the outside (too small a pebble in a very large pond), but in a smaller company the same actions could really make a difference.

One thing I will say against your points, however. #2, and everything that relies on it, is short circuited in a union shop to one extent or another.






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