When I think of empowerment, one word comes to mind: Independent. To me, independence means to be free…without restrictions. As an employee, I need to know that you (my manager) trusts and believes in me enough to empower me to serve with excellence. No, I don’t mean just having a clever mission statement that claims that the staff is empowered. Rather, do you encourage me to think independently to come up with a solution to a customer problem? Do you genuinely solicit my input and ideas, then challenge me to help implement those ideas? Do you empower me to recognize my peers (in my department and others)? Do you challenge me to go beyond merely meeting expectations, and seek ways to exceed them?
All of those things are key to fostering a culture of independence. Customers judge the quality of the service experience by the responsiveness of the first person they speak with to address their issue. Trust me, I want to work like I own it, but I also need you, my manager, to treat me like I own it. Being exceptional is a deeply personal decision. No one can MAKE me work like I own it. Whenever people do things they don’t like to do, it shows. However, since I have honor for what I do, I will consistently strive to do my work in the best possible light.
Chances are that I may never tell you to challenge me, but I need you to. Chances are that I may never tell you to recognize me for a job well done, but I need you to.
There is nothing quite like coming to work with the expectation that I can do whatever it takes to create memorable experiences for our customers. As long as it is legal, ethical and moral, I need the empowerment to find a way to make it happen.
Although I know that I am independent, I also know that I can’t create a culture of service excellence on my own. I need my team mates and other departments. If we all share the same mindset, then every touchpoint will be exceptional for every customer every day.
In my opinion, independence and empowerment are hallmarks of luxury service. I recently came across an article by renowned concierge, James Ridenour, and he perfectly articulated what distinguishes excellent service from luxury service.
“The Oxford Dictionary defines service as ‘The action of helping or doing work for someone’. For me, the definition of luxury service is most clearly defined in the way I train my team. I teach them that the difference between four star hotel service (excellent service) and five star service (luxury service) is that in a four star hotel everything the guest asks for is provided in an efficient and courteous manner, whereas in a five start hotel the guest shouldn’t even have to ask – their needs should be anticipated. The goal should be for the guest to be surprised and delighted by a level of service that delivers not only on their expectations but actually exceeds them.” – James Ridenour