Updated: Nov 22, 2022
You’re going to wonder what on earth this has got to do with education…. Well, bear with me and I’ll explain.
It all started on the first day of our holiday. We’d travelled down to Heathrow the day before our flight. We were staying in a hotel close to the airport for the night and decided to have a meal in their restaurant. It was quite late to be eating, around 9pm, and the restaurant was relatively empty. We asked for a table for two and eventually we got our table. It took a little while and at one point we weren’t even sure if we were being seen to as the waitress just walked away from us without a word. Not the best of starts. This was compounded by the fact that the table wasn’t even set although we’d just seen the waitress set the table behind the one we were directed to which, by the end of evening, nobody else had sat at. Anyway, let’s get to the point here. We ordered our food. Two pizzas. Now, I don’t mind eating a pizza by hand but maybe not in a hotel restaurant, so we asked for some cutlery. Forgive me here if I’m wrong but when - as a couple - you ask for cutlery, I would expect both diners to get a knife and fork? Not here apparently. My wife got a knife and fork and I received a spoon…just a spoon. Obviously, I could have asked again, ‘Please could I have a fork?’ But by now I had realised there was little point. I should mention that there had been several other issues by this time, and it continued well after the pizza too. At the end of the evening, we asked to see the restaurant manager. We explained that our evening had not been the best and that we had seen others complaining too. To be fair, he was quick to apologise. However, he explained that the waitress had not been there very long at all. Ok, that is completely fair enough – she is learning, we understand that but why is she not being trained we questioned? We had seen the restaurant manager hiding around a corner chatting to a colleague, so it wasn’t like he didn’t have time on his hands and I refer back to earlier - it wasn’t that busy. We felt for the waitress as she was clearly put in this situation with little support and guidance. Maybe now this is starting to ring bells for some of you?
In complete contrast to this story, when we arrived at our destination the next day, we were met with a completely different attitude to customer service. Over the next week or so, we met some of the friendliest, most helpful waiting staff we have ever come across. Now, granted they were after a healthy tip, but it certainly wasn’t compulsory to give one. Reflecting on both, the dining experience was made so much more pleasurable when the staff were friendly and helpful. All of this comes down to training, expectation, and attitude towards customer service. I doubt for a minute that front of house staff are particularly well paid for the hard work they put in but the difference between the two couldn’t have been further apart. What was working in one clearly was not visible in the other. So, why the difference?
I have no doubt that it comes from having a company that values not just its customers but its staff as well and having a clear view as a company on how you want others to view you. Are you just another company that provides that product/service or do you want to stand out from the rest? I’m sure the waitress in the first restaurant was very much capable of achieving the great service of the other one with the right guidance and support. So, is this something that is lacking in our UK culture? Do we generally take the view that if money is being made, then who cares? I know that we certainly won’t be going back to that hotel again. I’m sure if we took it further then we might get some money off a future stay but for us, the damage has been done and we doubt that things will change. Maybe, we have the wrong attitude and should be giving them the chance to change but when there is so much choice out there would we be wrong to look elsewhere? This shows the importance of getting things right the first time.
Surely, it is just common sense that you need to please both parties. Having respect for those that work for you and giving them the best possible support can only benefit both? Relating this to education and schools is easy… You, the teacher in a way are the waiter/waitress. You have the restaurant manager above you (the headteacher) and the pupils are the people eating at the restaurant. Now, if you the teacher aren’t performing then the pupils are not getting what they deserve - a great education. But hold on... If you haven’t been trained properly or aren’t receiving the support and guidance you need then how can you be expected to perform the role to the best of your abilities? Go back to those restaurants abroad, clearly the right training. You could class the tip as a little bit praise and a thank you for what they have done for you. It is no surprise then that the outcome is a very happy customer/pupil. This is always easier said than done and in many cases it seems lacking. Having an understanding that for everything to work in a school or a new company for example you need to be clear on what works for everyone. Let’s be honest, we all like that bit of praise and a thank you goes a long way.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to forget sometimes those important factors that make things tick. Having been in the middle (waiter) and higher up (Head) in our previous roles we are in the perfect place to ensure that fine balance is met and all parties are happy.
We pride ourselves on delivering great customer service so if you’re a teacher looking for a temporary position, or a school looking for a great teacher, then please get in touch.