As Hospitality experts and consultants, we can usually walk into a business and tell whether your team has a culture of just saying yes, or not.  If your café, restaurant or retail store does, it makes the rest of customer experience smoother, more effective and ultimately more sustainable through challenging times.

All great hospitality companies have an ethos of ‘just say yes!’  As my favorite Starbucks manager and barista says ‘the answer is going to be yes; I just need to find out what your question is.”  And this is why me and so many other millions frequent Starbucks.  When employees do not have this excellent training and philosophy, your business can quickly turn into a culture of ‘making excuses and even arguing with customers, or policing the menu!’

The stressors of Covid–19 on businesses in Canada, combined with the general stress that comes around the holiday season and this year’s end – may be making it difficult for employees to be in a good mood and thus ultimately deliver on your customer service vision.  So now, more than ever, is a crucial time to assess your teams’ ability to demonstrate this ‘yes behavior’ and to further asses your leaders (and yourself) to ensure you are leading by example!

If you want to have your team improve, work towards and/or adopt a ‘just say yes’ philosophy, start by supporting a ‘yes behavior’ in the following ways!

  • Lead by Example

If you aren’t willing to make yes your default, why would or should anyone else?  Be aware of how you communicate with guests and your team, whether you think they are listening or not.   If you hear yourself frequently telling customers ‘no’ or ‘we cannot accommodate that,’ your team will follow suit and find opportunities to likewise refuse to accommodate customers.  On the flip-side if you emulate this behavior, your team will fully understand that you talk the talk AND walk the walk!

  • Talk about your commitment to yes, daily!

You must talk about and share examples from your team of getting it right and just saying yes for customers.  Story-telling is an amazing way for your team to fully understand what it means and how to live by it as a philosophy.  Have your team share openly and often as well, and celebrate their successes.  This should be talked about openly and celebrated.  Reward and recognize those that go above and beyond. 

  • Spell out your commitment to yes. 

Ensure you have clear expectations and standards for the most frequent situations in your businesses that may require clarification.  For instance, if you do not offer split meals as a policy, ensure your team is aware of just how to still say yes to this.  Ie. We would be more than happy to bring an extra plate for you!  Write the ‘just say yes’ policy into your training and standards manual.  Include the nuances of what you can’t say yet to, and publicize those standards throughout the company. 

  • Start from the Interview

Make it clear, from the time you interview the future employee and throughout the training, that your company empowers team members to just say yes.  Ensure you explain this philosophy of service to the candidate, and ask them when interviewing how they would handle potentially difficult situations.  From day one of orientation, ensure you clearly explain and allow room for them to ask questions about your customer-focused flexibility.  Explain your vision of excellent customer service and how working on your team requires them to have this default of yes.  

  • Coach employees in the moment, who are defaulting to no

While most team members have good intentions, they can sometimes get it wrong, or make a decision tht is off-track to where you want them to be headed.  Ensure you and your management team balances praising ‘getting it right’ with coaching when they get it wrong.  Coach in private of course, but ensure your leaders are good coaches. 

  • Hire Genuinely Nice People

Who doesn’t like to work with someone is genuinely nice?  Conduct detailed interviews that dig deep to fully understand how the potential employee would behave in serving your customers.  Ask behavioral and situational questions that demonstrate real life examples of what they will be faced with.  Asses their answers and ensure they are aligned with delivering on your vision and customer service philosophy.  Strive to select applicants for customer-facing positions who have the requisite personality traits for superior customer service. (*And ALWAYS do reference checks!)

  • Trust but Validate

Your team always is super nice, respectful and just says yes to 100% of your customers, right?  How could they not?  Well, how do you assess what happens when you are not there?  The best way to assess this is either through your customers, other team member or by having mystery shoppers report in how they handled situations.   Having a system that validates and verifies that they are consistently delivering on your customer service vision is important to ensure they aren’t just ‘putting on a show’ when you and/or the manager is there.  So, it’s important for leaders to have an ear to the ground, listening to what other employees may be saying, since a leader may have trouble witnessing and uncovering poorly handled situations if team members act differently when the boss is around.

To fully create a culture of never saying no, but instead having your team live by a ‘just say yes’ philosophy – you must start even before your first team member is hired.  Create job postings, job descriptions, interview templates and standard operating procedures that clearly define your customer service expectations. 

Engage with one of our experts to help design standard operating procedures, customer service standards and guidelines, and custom training programs to improve your team’s execution of your ‘just say yes’ vision!  Doing all of this the right way the first time will not only increase customer satisfaction and create loyal, dedicated guests – it will also save you time and money!

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