The Result of Process-Driven Training - Stories from the Service Industry
You walk into a coffee shop and say, "Can I have an americano to go?" The cashier starts the process and goes, "Black americano, here or take away?" You look at him and say, "I already said to go." Then he asks, "Do you want milk?" At this point, you just say "No" while thinking that if I wanted milk, I would have asked for it.
Another story that happened to me. We went to one of our hotels to grab a drink at the bar by the pool. The waiter takes the order and asks, "Are you staying in the hotel?" I replied, "No". He then asked, "Staying outside?" I looked at him and asked, "Where else would I be staying?"
Why do these interactions happen? This is all about training that focuses on the process rather than understanding. Process-driven training doesn't require the person to use inferential comprehension to process information and understand the underlying meaning. We don't train people to take information and use it to determine the deeper meaning that is not explicitly stated.
Here is another story that made me think; What on earth are we doing to our guests?
Two weeks ago, my brother stayed in one of our hotels. The front desk staff were so poorly trained and process-oriented that at some point, I asked the supervisor, "Can I come over the counter and check myself in, please, as it will be easier for all of us."
We arrived, and I gave my name. I saw that the receptionist struggled to find the booking so I spelt it to her. No luck, so she says, "Can I have the passports?". I gave the passport still no luck. She then asked for the booking confirmation, which I gave. Voila, the booking suddenly appeared. During this time, the person was so focused on the process that she never even looked at me or said anything.
We went back a couple of hours later to pick up the key. This is where the fun began. The same receptionist welcomed me, so I said, "Im here to pick up the keys and added my name." Once again, she could not find the booking and asked for the passport, to which I replied, "I already gave you the passport, and I told you my name." She was utterly unable to check in somebody without following the process.
What happened next was funny. She got stuck, so she passed me on to the other receptionist. She could not say, "Sorry, how do you spell your name?" instead, she asked for the passport, and when she couldn't have that, she didn't know how to proceed further. I gave my name to the next receptionist, who printed out a registration card which was not under my name. When I told her it was not mine, she questioningly looked at the other receptionist, who had avoided all contact with her by then. She then asked me, "Are you sure this is not your name?"
I looked at her and just said, "Yes, I am."
I spelt my name again, and finally, we got it. During her issuing the key and taking the payment, I asked about the breakfast timing, and she said, "I will explain everything in a minute." God help from disturbing the process of check-in. She finalised the key and the payment and launched into a long speech about the hotel services (as we trained them) despite telling her that I had been in the hotel a few times and knew the outlets. She went through each outlet and facility. At this point, I gave up and just listened. I could not wait to get away from that reception desk.
Do you know the best part? All this happened with the supervisor standing right next to them. I asked her if she was the one supervising them, to which she just smiled but taken to action or responsibility. Probably she didn't see the problem.
This is what happens when we train people to follow processes and stop thinking. I remember we had so much fun working at the front desk. We knew how to complete every check-in step without making the guests feel they are part of a process. We never launched into a long speech about facilities but asked, "What would you like to know about our hotel?" We had full-on conversations about tennis games, prime ministers, holiday planning and other unrelated topics while checking in guests and only sometimes said the mandatory texts.
Once, I talked to a guy who worked both for Nike and Adidas simultaneously, which I found very odd. So I "interrogated" him during check-in. When I gave him the key, he said, "Oh, are we done already?". Hell yes:-)