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Mugg & Bean: picking up serviettes

Mugg & Bean muffinJen and I were in Mugg & Bean, Liberty Midlands Mall, over the weekend. A waiter walked by with a tray of dirty plates, and a used serviette fell to the floor as she passed our table. She didn’t notice, but another waiter did and immediately picked it up and threw it away.

Of course, it was an automated, unthinking response. Nothing special, you might think. That’s how they are trained: see a mess; clean it up.

True, but it doesn’t always happen that way, does it?

What happens in our organisations when someone drops the ball?  Do we default to blaming; are we quick to point fingers and absolve ourselves of responsibility? Do we secretly (or even openly) enjoy the other person’s discomfort, only too glad it wasn’t us this time? Or do we move quickly to pick up the pieces and clean up the mess, leaving ramifications and assessment of individuals and systems for later?

This isn’t about a serviette on the floor but a culture of clean floors, quick response and customer service. It begins with caring for the employees who care for customers because the way we treat each other affects how we treat our customers. And that is what this is all about. What happened next showed us how it affects the customer.

A couple of minutes later, a customer dropped a knife on the floor. A waiter grabbed a new cutlery set from the serving counter near us and passed it on to a colleague who took it to the young man. He was still bent over picking up the dropped knife. The waiter took it from him and placed the new set next to his plate. It all happened so quickly and automatically, without a word being spoken, that the youngster hardly even registered. I doubt that he appreciated the efficiency and effectiveness of customer service he had received, let alone the background training and employee engagement that now played out in his favour.

I am pretty sure that such things don’t just happen by chance at Mugg & Bean, and they won’t just happen for us either.

Think for a moment about some of the ‘serviettes’ that have been dropped in your organisation this past month, whether large or small. What were they? How were they handled?

We are not concerned here with the problem itself or with the steps you took to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That side usually gets done efficiently enough, albeit sometimes more harshly than absolutely necessary. No; here we are concerned with how you went about cleaning up the mess – the immediate steps.

While we might be able to avoid the worst of them, there will always be dropped serviettes in any organisation. The trick is not to eliminate them but to know how to handle them well, and make that process automatic for your employees.

  • How did you handle any ‘dropped serviettes’ this past month?
  • What steps were taken to clean up?
  • Could it have been done more effectively or more efficiently?
  • Was the organisation’s image improved or made worse in the process?
  • Were any customers involved? If so, did your handling of the situation improve or worsen their experience of your organisation?

I would love to hear your experiences. Please share them with us in the comments below.

Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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