Attitude or ability, which matters most?

Image result for grumpy face clip artRecently, in a grocery store, I was confronted with a cashier who showed no emotion or, quite frankly, anything that was very human at all. It was a most disconcerting scenario.

After placing items on the little belt that goes to the cashier, I went to the credit card machine and waited for her to scan all of my items. As I chatted amiably with the couple behind me, the cashier continued to scan. Once she was finished, she just sat, no smile, no eye contact, no alert to me that I could go ahead and swipe my card, nothing. Once I realized I had gotten lost in conversation, I looked over and said I was sorry. The cashier, true to form, sat motionless, lifeless. I asked if I could go ahead and swipe to which there was no reply, nothing, just a blank stare. I wondered if she was deaf or something. Well, I just went ahead and swiped the card and after seeing that it was working, waited for the transaction to go through. All the while, that cashier remained in a machine-like trance. It was a soulless experience.

I relay this tale of woe because what started as a pleasant shopping experience was totally ruined by the lack of emotion and helpfulness of this one employee. I wonder, why do people have to be so dismal? I feel sure that if the manager of the store could have been a secret shopper, they would have been shocked by the total lack of engagement … or…. maybe not and maybe that’s the problem. Regardless, shouldn’t employees be held accountable for attitude as much as ability?

So, what’s a manager to do? Well, Here are a few ideas…

  1. Give context: Make it clear to the entire team that attitude is at least as important as ability and that demonstrating a bad attitude to a customer is as damaging to the business as selling a bad product.
  2. Set the expectation: Explain that engaging with customers is part of the job. Engaging and creating a pleasant experience is as important as selling products and anything less is unacceptable.
  3. Be reasonable: Show some understanding and tell those same employees that you know it’s unreasonable to think that it is always possible to genuinely get engaged and that putting on an act is acceptable when times are rough, better to act than create dissatisfied customers. In addition, when we put on the act, many times it ends up turning rough times into better times, the act can turn a bad attitude around. It is well known that simply smiling, even when you don’t want to, can make you feel better.

The point here is that allowing bad attitudes to go on unabated will only create more and more dissatisfied customers and, in the end, damage to the business. It must be addressed.

The moral is this: attitude (warmth) is, as was said earlier, at least as important as ability (competence), and businesses need to acknowledge this reality and hold their employees, all employees including executives and managers, to delivering both at a high standard. Take a look at your workplace, where is more warmth needed? Turing it around will make a big difference.

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