Earlier this week, my writing partners and I holed up in a very nice, new, suburban, high end hotel for two days of concentrated work on our upcoming book, Rebooting Leadership. The trip was a success in every way. That said, while on the trip, we encountered two glaring examples of the utter futility of this thing called multitasking.
Upon approaching the hotel’s front desk to check in Monday afternoon, I found myself waiting while both front desk employees completed ‘business sounding’ phone conversations. The check-in process then proceeded smoothly until the person checking me in found it necessary to stop what she was doing and answer another phone call. My recollection is that it was probably a full 60 – 90 seconds before her attention was again focused on completing the check-in process. As a clear signal that my experience was no aberration, the next morning, the process repeated as my partners checked in.
Upon leaving town, we got another dose of the same, this time at the airport. My partners went into an airline club room and one of them asked about changing her flight to something that was at 4-something. The ticketing agent in the club, who was on the phone the whole time, held her hand out for Meredith’s boarding pass, said “That’ll be $50″, and processed the change. They both commented on the agent’s lack of attentiveness.
The two then sat in the club until it was time for Meredith to board her new flight. Upon arriving at the gate, she discovered that the agent had given her a boarding pass for a flight to IND, not IAD, and that the IAD flight (her intended destination) had already departed.
In fairness, both organizations are known for providing some of the better service within their industries, and indeed, both recovered nicely in these incidents. That said, it didn’t need to happen.
Actually, my concern in these cases isn’t so much that a couple of customers were temporarily inconvenienced. Rather, it’s that, by virtue of some poor systems planning, cutting corners, or bad training perhaps, these two companies are regularly putting front-line employees in a position to fail with their customers. Good service is difficult enough to deliver these days. It is impossible to do it with customer-facing employees who realize that they can’t win, ergo they stop trying to.
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows