Service has been on my mind lately; I think in part because I recognize how many different ways we can observe service in our lives. We tend to notice poor service quickly, and we tend to appreciate good service, although we don’t always acknowledge it at the moment. I’ve traveled to California and back recently, stayed in two cities (Los Angeles and San Diego), flew on planes, used a rental car, frequented several restaurants, and passed through a total of four airports (Tampa, Denver, Orange County, and Houston). Staffing levels are noticeably lower than pre-COVID.
My experiences through my week of travel are examples. I’ll highlight two standouts. The Westin hotel in San Diego was thriving, well-staffed, and providing superb customer service. Of the hotels I have visited since the beginning of the pandemic, they stood out for an evident culture of service. Lou & Mickey’s restaurant in San Diego’s Gaslamp district is known for its service. Professional waitstaff appear to like their jobs a lot and demonstrate a professional attitude that shines through. This restaurant is also doing well coming back from the COVID shutdowns. I highlight these to suggest that some are thriving despite difficult circumstances stemming from COVID. In both cases, management was visibly present and engaged.
United Airlines did well in the air, but ground services aren’t back yet. A sloth might outpace the cleaning crew sent (late) to transition one plane. There was no spring in their step, no joy in the work, and no concern for the hundreds of people waiting to board. Too harsh? I don’t think so. A plane departing late because of this simple task suggests a level of disconnect with the flying customer.
How Is Your Company’s Level of Service Evolving?
The labor shortage is evident in many pockets of the economy right now and very noticeably in the front lines of the hospitality industry. COVID has taken its toll, first closing much of that industry and then contributing to the industry’s return in fits and starts. Not surprisingly, some are not racing back to their pre-covid jobs. Some attribute this to a “generous” unemployment benefit of $300-$600 per month above the standard benefits. Some believe the higher unemployment benefit outweighs the motivation to return to an hourly job.
Last week, economist Paul Krugman offered another perspective, suggesting that the sluggish return to work is more a function of people having had the time during COVID to reevaluate their work situations and what matters to them. Commuting and working in unfulfilling roles look different when workers can step back from their circumstances.
Your government customer has no doubt experienced some of these same very relatable questions of their work circumstances. Your workforce is not exempt from the phenomenon.Know that changes in personal routines have caused some of your people to evaluate their situation, even if they might not have spoken of it with you.Service takes other forms, and those in the defense industry sometimes see service through an ideal lens. Click To Tweet
Service takes other forms, and those in the defense industry sometimes see service through an ideal lens. Service members that ratify their service to our country is individually ratified by uniformed military and many military employees through an oath to our constitution, serving a cause “bigger than oneself.” That sense of purpose can overcome a lot of the daily inconveniences or uncomfortableness of work situations. But it doesn’t mean everything is rosy.
How is your company’s level of service evolving? Or is it? I’ve written previously about the rush to return to “normal” and how that might allow you to miss a chance to adapt and evolve. Drill down on service in your company. Does the government customer appreciate that you are providing genuine service along with whatever your product might be? How do you know? Would you base your evaluation on the contractor performance assessment reporting system (CPARS)? That might be a lagging indicator; once a low CPARS records, it can be tough to undo.
Customer communications may be a bit more difficult this year, but certainly not impossible. I encourage you to consider how and when you inspect the status of your relationships. We read of various leadership styles that inspecting can assure actions are in alignment with what we are expecting as outcomes. We can inspect what we expect. It can be said in reverse as well. We can expect what we inspect. This concept is not micro-managing, as some might believe. Digging into your company’s day-to-day interactions is also a form of leadership.
Service can be evaluated objectively (CPARS) or subjectively (opinion). Which one is your government customer using in their evaluation of your team? Are you genuinely being of service or just hustling for the following proposal or contract payment?
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