I’m a little concerned hospitality consultants and leaders have been placing too much emphasis on what I’ll call “employee heroism” in their training programs. They tell and retell the stories of employees who have performed heroic acts for guests, going above and beyond the call of duty. Frontline employees are left with the impression that their job is to go out and perform acts of heroism by, for example, working overtime or going out of their way to do something extra special every chance they get.
There is no question that heroic employees create memorable experiences for guests, but our dependence on heroism is simply not sustainable. Two examples:
The check-in wait time is inexcusably long, so a front-desk attendant stays an extra hour beyond her shift to help out.
The restaurant is out of 1% milk, so the waiter makes a special trip to the local grocery store to pick some up.
We applaud the front-desk attendant and waiter for being “great” and “going above and beyond,” and give them a reward or some kind of recognition. We do this over and over again, and soon the culture becomes one of employee heroism (or maybe not).
But do you see the problem here? We’re using heroism to compensate for process failures. We should have had the milk already. We should have a way of anticipating busy check-in periods, or have a process for speeding-up check-ins on the whole. But instead of documenting the root cause of the service failure for analysis, we simply applaud the heroism and move on.
Employee heroism has its place, there is no doubt, but the truth is that depending upon heroism is expensive, especially if it because of something that should have been done right the first time.
Leaders need to educate their teams in improving processes as much as they educate them in going out of their way to deliver memorable experiences.