Why managers need to step up (and what happens when they don’t)!

A very dear friend of mine came to visit recently, and as she is getting married in summer, we felt the need to celebrate.  Ever the budget-conscious Northerner, I sought out a decent deal on one of my favourite website, TimeOut.  It’s great for those of us in big cities, allowing you to find great deals and offers on food, drink, entertainment, events and a plethora of other activities.  So my friend and I were really looking forward to heading to Mayfair to sample deluxe cocktails in a couple of swanky bars. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out as expected….

In the first bar, we arrived on time (having booked a table), only to find that the staff firstly couldn’t find the reservation, then could, then couldn’t.  We stood by the reception area, shuffling uncomfortably while the manager paced back and forth, huffing and puffing before eventually seemingly finding our reservation, and showing us to the table. A surly smile (it’s a trademark of the London cocktail bar managers), and we were eventually seated. Great cocktails, cool venue, but we didn’t feel very welcome or valued.

At the second bar, the plush interiors and beautiful staff quickly found us our table.  The cocktails were ultra chic, the clientèle was stylish, but one thing I never want to see is two staff members having (repeated) loud disagreements.  It was a bit like watching your mum and dad have a fall out in public when you were a kid – CRINGE!  As we sipped on our cocktails, the disagreement became a full on fall out, and one staff member threw their apron on the floor and stormed out.  No-one said everything – we were terribly English and pretended it didn’t happen, but we were glad to settle the bill and head on to our final venue.

Most of the time, I’m terribly organised – flights, hotels, restaurant bookings all done months in advance.  But every now and then, I rebel against my “inner planner” and go with the flow.  Our last cocktail bar was unplanned, but we felt like we hadn’t quite celebrated my friend’s imminent wedding enough, so we headed to an über-cool Japanese cocktail bar and restaurant. We hadn’t booked, but it was early, and the place was empty.  We were shown to our table, and handed menus with big smiles until all of a sudden, Godzilla appeared!  Godzilla was the manager – dressed  head to toe in black, with a severe Croydon facelift, she glared at us.

“Did you book?”, she glowered.

“No, but you do seem to be empty”, I whispered.

“It could get busy at any minute, you can’t just turn up”, she roared.

“Eek”, I squeaked.

She told us that (despite the fact that we were the ONLY customers in the whole place), we could only stay for one drink.  Not quite the end of the afternoon I had planned for my friend, but lesson learned!

So, readers, what did we learn from my West End afternoon of cocktails? That businesses encouraging customers to sign up for vouchers and promotions on TimeOut are missing a trick.  The marketing promotions are designed to give customer a taster, entice them in and encourage additional consumption.  The three bars we visited utterly missed that point, with managers that failed to deliver.

  1. Rather than treating such customers as an inconvenience, why not treat the customer with respect?  Next time, they might just bring a bigger group AND spend a lot more? A good manager will treat every customer as if they are valued, irrespective of dress, accent, appearance or age.
  2. Sometimes employees have a disagreement, but under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should that take place in front of customers.  A good manager will intervene and take any dispute out of sight of customers.
  3. When you customer contacts you, they expect that what you say is what will happen.  Don’t be disorganised or chaotic in front of your customers.  A good manager has everything under control (and makes everything look seamless, whenever a customer is about!)

These three points may seem really obvious, but this was my experience in three premium cocktails bars in London’s West End.  Not quite what you’d expect!  Take a moment to reflect on your customer facing teams, and how they handle situations.  Do you need to engage a mystery shopper?  Are you confident that your brand, marketing efforts and customer experience are what you expect? Managers are there to manage – make sure that your managers are doing just that!


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