The Power of a Well-Timed Nudge

*This article was graciously contributed by Mr. John Wood, who is the HR Recruitment Manager at the luxurious Shore Lodge Resort.

“Nuggets” are those actionable points of execution that set one service experience aside from all the rest. That special occasion when an authentic connection is made between the service and the guest. As a hospitality professional of over 30 years, I have a place in my heart for those extra special service nuggets that I have witnessed. Sometimes personally. And while we can all come to some agreement that this XYZ execution qualifies as ‘good service’ or that ABC exchange qualified as ‘great service’ my challenge has remained to be; what are the actionable points of execution that I can take back to my team from those exchanges? What are the nuggets that make ABC Company consistently great? And which of those nuggets will really make a difference?

8s, 9s, and 10s
We know that, kind of like a golf handicap, to move a team’s service score from 3s to 7s is a lot easier than moving that same team’s scores from 7s to consistent 9s and 10s.

So how do we get that consistently high 8s, 9s, 10s…all of the time? Even when we are short staffed? Even when we are training new people. Even when key lead employees are taking – gasp – a day off? Part of that answer is for the team to simply hold each other accountable. Let’s call it “The Nudge”. I think that we often miss the boat because we aren’t always holding each other accountable. Little things – uniform discrepancies. Bigger things – poaching parking or not clocking out for a break.

I was at Momofuku’s in Manhattan. Now I’m a huge fan of David Chang’s success story (and his pork belly sandwiches). An article about him published in the New Yorker magazine, about 12 years ago, pretty much saved my professional life. In that article, they cover the crazy dedication that he has towards getting it right and how manic he was while trying to establish himself. Low and behold 3 years ago, while visiting my niece, I look up and there it is: the temple to the Pork Belly sandwich that is Momofuku’s – and here I am outside the door! Joy and trumpets. Really. I had no idea that we were staying right around the corner! The next day we stand in line with the early lunch crowd to try his noodles and of course, to have a pork belly sandwich. It is a small place.

Seems like about six or seven people working out front. We’ve ordered and are waiting for the deliciousness to come and I am all googly-eyed looking around at this temple to gastronomy – trying to take it all in. I’m chatting with the Front-of-House manager a little bit about the restaurant, how often David comes around, and who picks the restaurant’s sound track (David does, still; a crazy mash up of old punk and pop and esoteric hip hop that day). 

The Nudge
Then I saw a staffer put a sleeve of plastic lids in an overhead storage bin above the bar. The tail of that sleeve didn’t quite get tucked into the overhead bin and was hanging down just a bit – 2, maybe 3, inches. The other staffer standing there polishing glasses (here comes the nugget), sees it hanging down and gently nudges his coworker with an elbow (glass still actively being polished) and glances up to the hanging bag. Not a big scene. Not a world wrecking situation to begin with – but a little gentle peer accountability nudge that said, “Hey man, you missed. Try again.” And the staffer reached up and tucked it away and my delicious food was delivered and all was well with the world that day. 

That was it. Noticed. Communicated. Actioned on. Repaired. It remains a favorite training illustration. An actionable nugget that I have used with my staffs since.

Peer Accountability
In order for us to become that industry leader, we have to become black belts at holding each other accountable for the little misses that occur. We have to practice so that we don’t take it personally, so that we don’t ramp up the drama, so that we don’t get all jihad on the person calling us out – but that we recognize what is  being communicated – an opportunity to correct the little thing and realign our current efforts towards our common purpose of being that industry leader.

You see, my team has been able to raise our scores from 3s to 7s & 8s, which was very cool! And, honestly; pretty easy once we had that common purpose. We have the skills. We are getting better at hiring. We are building the depth in our teams to get there. Now, getting those scores from 8s, 9s, and 10s every time; that is a bigger challenge. I think that we can all agree that the key is consistency. But, we don’t always have the bandwidth to individually follow through on or even see our inconsistent treatment of a standard or service opportunity.  Too busy, distracted, too…too.

Having a second set of eyes is always a helpful thing. Even better is having a second set of eyes with an accompanying nudge. That creates a culture where EVERYONE is present in the training & accountability piece, and everyone is expected to do so.

Yeah. And really, really good noodles.

–John Wood  (**Thank you John for sharing this story!)

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