Saturday, December 03, 2005

There is a Lesson Here Somewhere

The other day I was returning from a business trip to the Bay Area and had some extra time in the San Francisco Airport. So, I decided to eat dinner in a seafood restaurant that is just behind security in Terminal 3. I can’t remember the name, but you can’t miss it. They have excellent food—a rarity for airport restaurants.

I was seated, given a menu, offered a drink, and had the daily specials described to me by a competent and helpful Indian waiter. He was helpful without being pushy, polite, and didn’t bother to bother me with his name. In summary, he provided good service. I ordered, he brought my glass of wine and I settled in to read a few pages of my paperback novel while waiting for my food.

After a minute, the same waiter seated a distinguished-looking British man next to me and went through the same routine with him. The man ordered, after hearing the specials, and then said to the waiter, “Thank you for your excellent service. You really are a great waiter and provide great service.”

I was a bit surprised. Sure, the guy was a good waiter, but did he really warrant that kind of praise? Especially before the food or drink was even delivered?

The British man left his table to go to the restroom. The waiter immediately came to his table, adjusted the condiments on the table, noticed that the table was slightly unlevel, used a piece of cardboard from his order ticket book to level the table, and refolded the man’s napkin. Throughout the meal, the British man got extraordinary service. Now, the service was really good to start with, but his service was even better. His water glass was always full, his wine glass topped up. An empty plate disappeared without fuss. The service was kind of invisible, but very present at the same time.

I observed all this smiling to myself, knowing there was a lesson here somewhere. Perhaps it was that people will rise to perform at the level of your expectations. Perhaps it was that reward is a better motivator than punishment. Perhaps it was just that nice people get better service. I don’t know for sure what the lesson is, but I will be sure, in the future, to compliment an obviously competent waiter or waitress early in the meal instead of at the end!

Tags:  business
Posted under: Stuff You Gotta Know!The Business World • by Rick on 12/03/2005 at 10:24 AM
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