Have you ever stopped using a supplier or service provider, because one of their team was a pain in the ass, rude or incompetent? That’s a rhetorical question, because we all have from time to time.
If you have ever wondered why anyone would employ someone that drives customers away, you’ll find today’s post useful. It could also stop someone you know from making the same mistake, because as you’ll see, the business owner is often unaware that the problem exists.
The toxic head waiter
I was prompted to write this, after meeting up with an old friend yesterday. He owns a restaurant in Soho, London. He told me that he’d been forced to fire his head waiter last summer. Following the firing, takings rose significantly.
No, the head waiter hadn’t been stealing from him. Instead, he was driving customers away with his attitude. He was a life-long, personal friend of the restaurant owner. However, my friend discovered that the head waiter was rude and obnoxious to customers he didn’t like, and that these included some of the restaurant’s best customers.
It only came to light after a former customer called the restaurant to cancel his anniversary party. My friend asked why and the customer explained that the head waiter was ruining the atmosphere, before naming half a dozen of his friends, who had also stopped using the restaurant because of the head waiter’s attitude. My friend called these former customers and they all confirmed it. His losses from these corporate customers alone run into tens of thousands. He later found many more former customers had stopped eating there because of the toxic waiter.
The toxic P.A.
I saw something very similar happen first hand, with a former client’s business. He hired a new P.A., who was a very good worker and extremely efficient. She massively improved my client’s work flow and even freed him up to have more family time. In his eyes, she could do no wrong.
However, she was nasty to other members of his team and to some clients too. Despite regular complaints, he chose to do nothing about it. He told me that he’d assumed they were jealous of her,
Eventually, her rudeness cost him his biggest client and as this client was related to his 3rd biggest client, he lost that client too! They were responsible for around 20% of his revenue. It was only when he met with the former client to try and win them back, that he finally learned how toxic his P.A. was to his business.
It’s always unintentional
No sane business owner would set out to deliberately hire someone, who was damaging their business. It’s unintentional. In the examples I mentioned here and many others I am aware of, the business owner had no idea that the toxic employee was causing so much damage.
As business owners, we need to be smarter than that. We need to take time to speak with our clients or customers and ask them about the quality of the service they receive. We need to do exit interviews whenever possible, when a client switches to another provider or when a member of the team leaves.
We all know about the importance of stock taking in our business. However, we also need to ensure we take stock… and take a long look at the people and processes within our businesses.