Since it’s Halloween, I’m reminded of an incident a few years back. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
I was at dinner at a local restaurant toward the end of October and was greeted by my waitress, who was dressed in a beautiful Snow White costume with well-done make-up and manicured nails. No Snow White at Disney World or Disneyland could have competed with her. Everyone she served loved her costume and was thrilled to be served by Snow White. I thought it was a great idea that management asked their employees to dress up for Halloween because everyone so obviously responded positively to it.
Toward the end of the meal, instead of having Snow White return to our table, a new waitress, dressed in normal, drab waitress apparel, appeared. When asked where Snow White was, we were told that she had been sent home.
To this day, I wish I had said something to this by-the-book manager. Sure, Snow White didn’t show up to work in her approved uniform. Yes, she didn’t ask if she could wear a costume for Halloween. But were her customers satisfied and happy? You bet!
There’s a Japanese proverb—Deru kugi wa utareru—which means the nail that sticks out gets hammered down, and obviously that’s what happened in this case. Snow White made waves, and her manager didn’t like it.
However, how can you truly provide exceptional customer satisfaction if you don’t empower your people to make decisions and allow them to think out of the box to solve customer problems? I’ve seen a number of instances recently when so-called empowered employees were reprimanded for not doing what the manager wanted but the internal and external customers were happy with the outcome.
In the end, Snow White provided excellent customer service, while the manager apparently didn’t notice how delighted his customers were; the manager was at fault himself for bad customer satisfaction, which I’m sure was not his intent.
If I had been the manager, I would have made wearing the Halloween costumes for the wait staff an annual event. Word of mouth would have increased his business, customer retention would have been high, and his customers would have been happy.
As Theodore Roosevelt said:
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do!”