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Such is the sad fate in service industries. You do a bad job, and they start calling out the manager, being obnoxiously loud, and give you terrible ratings on the customer satisfaction comment cards. You do a good job, they take it for granted, and drop you a few dollars extra tip at best. They don’t call out the manager to tell you how good a job you’ve done, and they don’t bother giving you max ratings on the customer satisfaction comment cards.

I heard these stories from my friends working in museums, insurance companies and restaurants. Think about it: the last time you called out a manager, or wrote an opinion card, was it due to positive or negative performance?

Although we expect a good job to be rewarded, often times, customers only express their dissatisfaction, and not their satisfaction. Personally, I believe good work should be rewarded. And it is often easy to forget because we take good work in a service industry for granted. However, because “decent service” is always expected, if someone meets our expectations, we often fail to provide the positive feedback that is well deserved!

I’ll take a slightly exaggerated example of Hamadaya. I was extremely, extremely lucky to be able to eat there once, and all I can say that it was flawless. I couldn’t say any of the flavors were absolutely amazing, creative and mind-blowing, but throughout the meal, everything was flawless. The taste met my expectations of a Michelin 3 star restaurant, the food was served at perfect timing and included many full bows from the server; absolutely nothing went wrong.

Ok, so that level of service would never occur at that taco joint down the road. Sure, the waiter might spill a drop of water here and there, and may be slow on the water, but they can still allow you to have a good time. I use the following as an approximation (may vary depending on circumstances) at restaurants:


1) nothing was done by the waiter to disrupt your comfort at the restaurant (ie, spill water on you, swear at you, be completely unresponsive)

2) the food was not obscenely bad (ie, it was bad enough you stop after one bite)

3) the service isn’t too slow (ie, more than 30 minutes between each dish when you are in a party of 5 or less is kind of pushing it)

then, I guess you had a decent time.

So, I suppose what I’m saying is, as long as you got what you expected, I think people in the service industry should be given the proper thanks. Sometimes, telling whoever is serving you that they did a good job boosts their morale more than leaving an extra dollar or two. Be they museum guides, waiters or your insurance agent, be sure to express your thanks if they did a good job!

If bad work continues to get criticized, but good work is never rewarded, people will know what they are doing wrong, but be unable to identify what they need to do to be better. People improve faster if you tell them what they are already doing right. If a museum tour guide is doing a great job rolling off historical facts, tell them! If they don’t know that’s what you like, how do they know if they should keep on doing it? Verbal or written, the feedback does help. You, the person being serviced, is setting the bar for the server (who else would?). If you fail to do so, they can’t customize their service for you, they will just take blind stabs in the dark. Be a guiding hand for your server, so they can help serve you better.

Again, let’s go through a cost benefit analysis like last week. It takes you literally 3 seconds to say “you did a fantastic job today.” It costs you literally nothing to say it, but it may motivate someone who is on the verge of abandoning their job to suddenly be driven to work harder.

So, hopefully we don’t take those serving us for granted, and you can say something good to your waiter next time they do a decent job. They may not have blown your mind with creative service, but if you compliment them for doing a decent job, you may just motivate them to bring out their A game next time you meet them again!