Complaint Leaks: What are Guests Hearing from Staff?


Complaint Leaks


I had an interesting service experience yesterday that led me to wonder what went into the training of the staff.

The young man I dealt with was efficient and polite, but the interaction was odd. His words were pleasant enough, and he even joked around with me a little bit, but he never once smiled. It bugged me a little, but the main thing I took away from it was that he didn’t like his job.

Why? Because he told me.

This is the third time in the last two weeks I’ve had service employees “leak” job complaints to me. Is this a coincidence or a growing trend?

The first time, I was in a store waiting for help. An employee noticed me, but asked the other girl to come assist me. She then turned back to me and said, “Sorry, she’s slow. None of us like her.”  I thought it was an extreme, isolated event. I realized it wasn’t when I returned to the same store.

I thought the woman helping me had just had some kind of jaw injury, as she was speaking to me through clenched teeth. It took me a few minutes to realize that her set jaw and eye-rolling were directed at her co-worker, who was complaining about not having enough time off. It turned into a full-blown argument before I was able to escape, and my fellow shoppers and I were treated to quite the awkward experience.

The young man I dealt with yesterday (not from the same place) complained about a manager, the music playing, and how tired he was.

I’ve had more isolated experiences like this in the past, but this happening so close together made me wonder if it’s a bigger problem than it seems, and how to go about stopping it.

While I do believe that employee satisfaction has a direct tie to guest satisfaction, I cannot justify rewarding this kind of behavior with increasing perks to inflate the mood of the staff. It’s just too late at that point.

My first two examples were all different staff members at the same store, which leads me to believe there is a culture problem. Bad hiring practices, training, or employee retention methods are to blame. Perhaps new management is in order in that situation.

The other was an isolated problem (to my eyes, anyway). What would you do as the manager in that situation? Most companies already have policies in place for this kind of behavior, but how do you enforce them?

  1. Fire any employee caught complaining to guests. It is unacceptable.
  2. Listen to staff feedback in the meantime; on-the-ground employees often have great insights into operations. 
  3. Be present as much as possible and pay attention to interactions with guests.

What suggestions would you have for these two companies?