Is It Your Staffing, Or Your Staff?

I have taken a break from writing while deciding exactly what direction I wish to take this blog. But with the hottest topic in customer service right now being staffing, I want to chime in.

We have heard countless stories of terrible “post pandemic” service in every sector of our business. It seems to immediately become a conversation about poor staffing.   Listen. I don’t know you, or your business, so I don’t know what your customer service philosophy is but I ask you this. Are you willing to explore the reality that it is a not so much an issue with your staffing as it may be with your staff?

Yup. I said it. I have noticed a new climate where businesses are so desperate for staff, that they will not only lower their standards in hiring to get them, but will allow their staff to hold them hostage to those “new” standards.  It seems like it’s “survival versus service” right now, and we need to look at it from all sides. Some of us have played both roles in this scenario. As customers, we were so happy to get out with our friends and family after Covid, that we were willing to accept that service was going to be subpar at our favorite establishments. We kindly, as we should have, rolled with the punches of everyone getting back into the swing of things. As business owners and managers, we accepted it was the best we could do. But it now feels like the new normal, and it shouldn’t be. The staffing issue is a socioeconomic phenomenon I don’t have the solutions to. But as a 40+ year member of the customer service community, I know we have control of one thing, and that’s how we treat our customers and guests.

You can be understaffed, while maintaining a high level of customer service, as long as you have a mission to do so.  I work in a place that does it every day. Your staff must understand how to deal with humans in an understaffed environment. They will be more patient than you think when they understand the situation, and you will be remembered for your eloquence in handling your staffing situation. However, if you simply write it off to “Staffing”, you may be missing places your current frontline can become even better. Once again, why you are short staffed is none of my business, and I would never consult anyone as to how to find more people. But you can set standards among your staff today, that not only sets a protocol, but gives them some ownership, in a mission of great customer service.  Do this weekly, if not daily, when your environment allows it.

There has never been a better opportunity to absolutely shine in your service sector. Your frontline staff, with the right training, and some ownership of concept, can remind customers of how it “used to be”. Yeah, I am an old man talking about the old days of customer service, where a business took an interest in you, instead of simply taking your money. I believe a retail and personal service revolution is right around the corner, and those businesses that remember that they are “dealing with humans” will prosper from it.