Service: Hit or Myth?


Have you ever stopped to think about what “service” really means? What is it? Can it be defined? (Forget Webster; as far as we know, he never worked flipping burgers, mixing drinks, selling clothes, listing real estate, or checking in hotel guests.) We define service simply as “the manner in which the customer is treated.” It’s a thing more often felt than seen. It’s a magic act, an illusion, a perceived value that accompanies an exchange of goods for money. It can be good, bad or indifferent. The customer’s service expectations are based on the type of product we’ve chosen to offer, the price of the product, the environment in which the product is being offered, and (most importantly) the manner in which the product is delivered.

Service is an Illusion

So what? Any “consultant” book can tell you that. But let’s dig a little deeper into the bag of Service Definition. (Stick with us here. We want to take you from the “hole” to the entire donut.) Where does “service” come from? What’s the motivation for any employee to provide service to a customer? Forget honor, pride and warm fuzzy feelings for now — that stuff comes later. The answer is because we want them to buy something! Service is an illusion.

Think about it. Don’t shy away from this significant fact of business life. ADMIT IT! Why would anyone want to help or “serve” you in, say, a shoe store? What’s the employee’s motivation to pay attention to you? Why would they want to help you put your musky, smelly, stinky feet into three or four different pairs of shoes? They’re hoping you’ll buy those shoes!

Making the Sale is the Ultimate Desired Result

The store manager hires that person based on the agreement that they will suggest (and hopefully sell) shoes, socks, belts, shoe polish, clothes or whatever items the store offers to any and all customers who walk in the store. Making the sale is the ultimate desired result; “serving” the customer is a means to the end, not the end itself. What they never tell you about service.

Service is something you do that expedites, or results in, a purchase, a sale or a return visit. Without “service” you can still make a sale (“selfserve” gas stations, for example). But without sales, service cannot exist. Service is sweet, but it’s sales that feed the bulldog.

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