Make the Connection
A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I received the best restaurant service we’ve gotten in a long time. We’re in the process of selling our house and left so some prospective buyers could walk through. We ended up having a late lunch at Smokey Bones to while away the time and talk over some of the stressful details. I could tell our server sized us up immediately as a party to leave alone. He was attentive but almost invisible to us and at the same time funny and playful with a nearby table of college-basketball fans. This is a young man who belongs in the restaurant industry.
Smokey Bones parent company Darden Restaurants knows that taking care of its unit-level employees means those employees will take care of the customer. Andy Snitz, senior director of employment, says, “If we’re going to satisfy our guests, we have to satisfy our employees as well.” To do that, Darden offers many benefits to hourlies, allows unit-level staff to have input on new employees, and seeks and follows up on feedback from workers. While he won’t reveal exact numbers, Snitz says Darden’s turnover rate is among the industry’s best, and People Report concurs.
Many studies have shown a correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. As early as 1918, psychologist Edward Thorndike explored the relationship between work and job satisfaction in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Research at Sears Roebuck & Co. in 1998 determined that a 5-point improvement in employee attitudes led to a rise in customer satisfaction of 1.3 points, which generated a half-point increase in revenues.
Employee satisfaction has a direct link to the bottom line.
What all the research in between tells us is not surprising. Employees with higher job satisfaction believe in their companies, or at least in their supervisors. They care about the quality of their work and are more productive. They tend to stick around longer. Those on the front lines give a more positive perception of the company to customers and are better able to respond to customer needs.
The direct supervisor is key. If a manager shows fairness, understanding, respect and concern for the employees, their job satisfaction goes up. An added bonus is that the employees now have the tools to be fair and empathetic to their guests, increasing customer satisfaction.
Do the Right Thing
Improve employee satisfaction and you’ll improve customer satisfaction. Easier said than done. First you have to learn why workers are dissatisfied. Measure employee satisfaction with surveys and unit visits, and follow up on what you learn. Show concern for their well-being, develop bottom-to-top communication channels, and involve employees in the business. Make all managers accountable for people metrics. Evaluate the best practices of other companies such as those featured in this issue.
The effect that each employee of a restaurant has on customers is difficult to quantify on its own. But we know that it’s significant. It’s why BJ’s Restaurants is investing in technology to train its staff in hospitality. And why Applebee’s rates all employees to reward the best, help the middle and get rid of the worst. And why Jamba Juice empowers those on the front lines to do what’s right for the customer without asking permission.
Taking care of your employees is the right thing to do. But more than that, it’s the right thing for your business.