Invisible Hand: The Direct Business Impact of Every Frontline Staff
It often goes unnoticed, but the barista who serves your daily cup of coffee has an invisible yet powerful and direct influence in the way you taste your drink. And we’re not just talking about the way they handle your order.
“I’m sorry ma’am, I just have to assist someone else for a minute,” are words from a bank clerk that can instantly induce frustration in any customer. Bank errands are stressful enough, but this one clerk, whose name I clearly remember to be ‘Jenna’, was one of the best clerks I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with. She smoothly helped me through my transaction and was consistently patient in answering all my questions. She was the kind of clerk that even at four in the afternoon, with only a few minutes left before clocking out, still had the energy to smile at her client like it was just her first hour at work.
What was so remarkable about Jenna isn’t her technical knowledge of the products; it was Jenna’s way of dealing with customers at hand. Her attitude was a subtle yet very clear indication of how happy she was to work for that bank. When I asked about one of the tabletop printouts on her desk, she wasted no time to explain everything and almost immediately presented an investment plan that would fit my lifestyle. It was a sign that she was trained very well; that she was given enough time by the management to read, study, and sell to any kind of customer that she’s faced with. Overall, what would have been a tedious and time-consuming process felt like a mere 15 minutes of talking to a someone I already knew. And the following week when I came back, Jenna was the same person I immediately looked for, because I knew that their branch had someone who can breeze through all my concerns. Suddenly, running bank errands didn’t seem so bad.
People like Jenna have a direct influence on a business’ reputation. Bank clerks, along with many other frontline professions, are one of the most influential people that a business can employ. There is an invisible, direct control that lies with customer-facing staff. They leave a big impact on clients and are a potential bottleneck for prospects. Everything they do determines a customer’s impression on the business, and helps them decide whether or not they will patronise the product or service. Often, it isn’t just the company’s branding or products that really catch attention — it boils down to how properly and professionally their people handle clients’ concerns.
Whether it’s a business that physically or digitally interacts with people, the same effect rings true. In 2018, Tanda received an online review from a client named Rachael, and it read:
“Tanda support is local and has always been prompt and issues [are] resolved straight away. I would have no hesitation in recommending Tanda.”
Since then, it’s been a common sentiment in reviews — clients will almost always bring up how exceptional the customer support team is. “Support is very helpful and quick to respond”; “customer support is amazing and the staff there are very friendly to deal with”; even going as far as, “I honestly think that Tanda support team on its own can be the reason to go with this software.”
Imagine a client recommending a product based on customer support alone.
Back when SaaS was still young, that would probably be hard to believe, but what seems unthinkable then is now one of the greatest leverages any digital business can use to acquire more customers.
Regardless of industry, frontline influence is universal
The power of well-trained frontline staff is universal. Their behaviour constantly influences the public’s perception of the company they represent. The experience they create is what clients will always remember. It’s the same in hospitals, supermarkets, service centres, restaurants, hotels, and cafés. Frontline staff service plays a huge role when it comes to helping a business stand out above the ever-laden competition.
In the case of restaurants, there’s a reason why Michelin Stars, the most notable and popular restaurant-rating system, includes ‘overall dining experience’ in their list of criteria. Mastery of food taste and techniques are important, but one faulty dining experience of an inspector and your hopes for 3 stars are easily out the door.
For hotels, Les Clefs d’Or (The Society of Golden Keys, widely popularised by the 2014 film, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’) was organised formally 90 years ago for the sole purpose of delivering the best quality of customer service in hotels across the globe. Wearing the signature pin of crossed keys in a concierge’s lapel is synonymous with “excellent services rendered by a seasoned professional.” These are the most vital people in any hotel — not just the rooms, value for money, or amenities offered — but the people in front are considered to be the most crucial point of interaction for any hotel guest.
As with coffeehouse chains, I often remember the best drinks to be the ones served promptly and properly as I would order them. Some baristas do not exactly know how to prepare a certain drink, but this only tells me one thing: the company needs to invest more time training them. However, the way they handle orders is not the only thing that factors into a customer’s perception. There’s even an account of Forbidden Bean founder and barista, Vanessa Lee, talking about how a barista’s brand image (dress code) affects the taste of coffee. It is seemingly possible to affect a customer’s impression of coffee even before they taste it, simply from interacting with their server.
Whether you go to a bank for over-the-counter transactions or order coffee in the corner shop, the fact that frontline workers will serve you do not change. Everywhere we go, whatever service or product we buy, their omnipotence is a force that if otherwise existed, will not amount to much of the business’ operations.
Yet, majority of the world’s businesses who hire frontline workers either pay them less or make them work more than the maximum hours, sometimes even both, resulting in rampant cases of wage theft across different industries.
Millions and billions unpaid annually
Recently, in the United States, J.V. Car Wash and its sister locations were caught in a lawsuit for a wage theft case amounting to approximately $8.5 million. It was the result of underpaying their workers $4 per hour, $50 per day. On average, that amounts to $350 a week. To put this on a clearer light, the average American’s weekly spend on food is $161, not taking into account that shelter is at $450 per week and transportation is at $200 per week, all on average. That’s already way beyond the $350 a week that J.V. Car Wash employees were getting.
And this type of case is not at all exclusive in the West. A 2017 report by Middlesex University and the Trust for London notes that “unpaid labour” is not limited to the failure of employers to properly pay employees, however even covering cases such as forced labour, “workfare”, unpaid internships, cessation of pay in company insolvency, and even unwaged domestic work and childcare. The same report concluded that there are between 35,000 and 40,000 cases of unpaid wages every year in the UK alone. Business Insider also reported that these amount to £2.7 billion every year, excluding any unsettled statutory pay and self-employed individuals.
In Australia, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) apprehended and penalised businesses in 2018 that amounted to a whopping A$10 million. The penalties were in response to improper payroll processing and underpayment of employees, most of whom were found to be students and immigrants. Among those businesses apprehended, labour issues were most rampant among the fast food industry, restaurant, hospitality, transportation, and manufacturing.
One case is that of Degani Café. On 21 December 2018 they were penalised A$140,000 for underpaying staff and providing inspectors with false records, according to FWO. Only 5 months prior to FWO’s notice, Degani was also the subject of a non-compliance report, particular of 15 of their outlets. The problems identified were consistent: Underpayment and record-keeping breaches.
Yet, the cases of businesses not paying staff accurately remains on its toes. Unfortunately, no big change has been heard of in terms of these issues. As I’m writing this, approximately A$2.3 million in underpayments and wage theft has been announced by FWO — and we’re only halfway the month of March. So, where exactly is this issue coming from and why is it supposedly so difficult to resolve?
A complex system’s inner workings
Massive cosmetic brand, Lush blamed “serious payroll system errors” as a reason of underpaying staff after they became the subject of Australian controversy in July 2018. It was found that over 5,000 retail and manufacturing workers were improperly paid over the duration of 8 years, amounting to over A$2 million in penalties. What’s interesting to note however, is that their statement also attributed the penalties with the transition of payroll systems to the Fair Work Act’s system of Modern Awards in 2010.
Australia’s system of awards has not been short of public dissensions. Putting simply, the legal document serves as a guide in paying staff, where different levels of employee classification, pay rates that change based on hours and days, and the industry covered are indicated. Many factors are taken into consideration when paying people due to this system, and it’s hardly ever a fixed rate for staff since conditions will vary depending on shifts undertaken. One example of this multi-layered complexity was made by SMSF Adviser:
“For example, under the Cleaning Services Award 2010 there are three levels of classification, different rates for ordinary hours, Saturdays, Sundays, Public holidays as well as shifts that start prior to 6am, commence after 6pm or for permanent night shift as well as split shift allowances.
Additionally, there are allowances for toilet cleaning – if a large portion of the day involves cleaning toilets an allowance of 1.766 per cent of the standard rate per week is paid or 0.359 per cent per shift, a cold place and hot place allowance if you work more than one hour of your shift in a cold or hot place – the amount of allowance varying depending on the temperature.
Height allowance, own transport allowance, first aid, leading hand, meal allowance if you work an additional 2 hours without prior notice, refuse collection allowance if a major portion of time is on refuse collection, uniform, higher duties allowance – if you perform higher duties for more than 4 hours in the day you are paid for the whole day if under 4 hours just the actual time you performed higher duties.”
I will not even attempt to do the math with the statement above. But imagine the concentration it requires to sift through such details. And then imagine that you’re a business owner whose forte isn’t exactly wage and pay calculation. This makes it strenuous for managers to keep up, what with updates on rates from the Fair Work frequently released.
It’s true that complex systems pose major bottlenecks in accurately paying staff; however, it’s also important to take into account that another reason why employees do not get paid well is due to their lack of awareness of how much they should be paid in the first place. In the case of J.V. Car Wash, the workers had barely an idea of what their base wage should be, and whether or not the tips were theirs to take home. If you look at it, this should really not be the case if a business has a proper onboarding system. It’s not solely an employee’s responsibility to understand how the system works — let alone a complex one — rather shouldn’t it be under the employer’s discretion to explain and disclose what an employee should expect?
Read more: Onboarding: The Employer’s Checklist
Shaping staff confidence to build client confidence
Why does accurately paying your staff matter anyway? Underpayment is one factor that leads to low employee morale, and when your frontline staff has low morale, it can significantly affect the way they treat your customers. According to Snap Surveys, any one of these signs are red flags in the company that you should fix ASAP:
- Poor communication with management and team
- Frequent absenteeism
- Excessive complaining over small matters
- Increased employee conflicts or fighting among staff
- Poor work quality
- Increased customer complaints
If left unattended, low employee morale will affect business operations faster than managers realise. Productivity will go down, and staff will eventually stop caring about the service they provide to clients. And through the power of social media, it is now easy to leave thoughts and feelings about a company in just one tap. Unsurprisingly, many comments left on websites are not about the product but about the company’s customer service. In fact, according to a PwC survey, 65% of respondents find that great customer service is more influential than great advertising. As Peter Shankman put it:
“Customer service is no longer about telling people how great you are. It’s about producing amazing moments in time, and letting those moments become the focal point of how amazing you are, told not by you, but by the customer who you thrilled. They tell their friends, and the trust level goes up at a factor of a thousand. Think about it: Who do you trust more? An advertisement, or a friend telling you how awesome something is?”
Employees who are not confident in the job they perform says more about how their employers treat them than anything else. Should a business decide to build their clients’ trust, the trust should begin between managers and employee first, e.g. proper onboarding, decent training, just payouts, and an open feedback system, among others.
Read more: Actionable feedback from the front line
The truth of the matter is that the demand for frontline staff will not die down for as long as businesses like banks, department stores, coffee shops, and groceries operate. Even when businesses opt to turn digital, customer service representatives still play an essential role of setting a brand image for clients. The way employers treat frontline staff translates into the way they treat their customers, which in turn makes or breaks a brand. For as long as employers fail to provide their customer-facing employees the proper training, fair pay, and flexibility to do the best work they can, these industries will continue to lose more than they can afford — and we’re talking more than just the revenue, more so the overall quality of operations and lifetime value that they have in the books.
Know more about how you can empower your frontline staff with our FREE eBook:
Industry Insights Product Updates |
Ensure Enough Coverage for Your Restaurant at Any Given Time
Traffic at a restaurant ebbs and flows with the times. One moment you’ll only have a handful of patrons, the next an avalanche of customers are queuing at the entrance, waiting to be served. From being overstaffed at a certain time period, suddenly your wait staff are juggling multiple tables while tickets are lining up like crazy at the kitchen. How do you effectively plan your coverage so that you get the most out of the staff that you have? Forecast Sales and Traffic First things first, of course, is that you have to effectively forecast your restaurant’s sales and traffic at any given day. It might not be an exact science, but Bplans has an in-depth article that can guide you in creating a clear sales forecast. In summary, the article advises that you calculate the number of meals your restaurant can serve based on the number of tables and seats. Multiply those meals based on the amount of service at any given time (in their example, it’s one service during lunch and two services for dinner). Then vary it based on assumptions per day or week (maybe less on Mondays and more on the weekends). And finally, line it up in a spreadsheet. Determine Your FTEs, Make Sure That You Have 2 FTEs more In Any Given Shift So, you have a good sales projection available. Now, it’s time to review your staffing and check if you have enough of everyone for any given shift. It all boils down to the FTEs. FTE stands for “full-time equivalent,” or the number of hours a full-time employee can render in a week. According to this article from TheRestaurantExpert.com, back-of-house employees have 40 hours in one FTE. Those on the front-of-house, on the other hand, have five shifts in one FTE. The same article deep dives on ensuring that your restaurant has enough people through FTEs. Long story short: they recommend to always have two FTEs more than your forecast dictates so that you have enough people covering the restaurant. With that as a rule-of-thumb, you can be creative with your staffing. Cross-train staff so that they can do more than one task. Have bartenders also learn how to cook simple dishes or have new wait staff also cover bussing or washing dishes. Craft Your Rota Once everything is set, it’s time for you to make the weekly rota. Make this task quicker for you by leveraging online rota software that replaces the old-school way of using whiteboards or Excel spreadsheets. Take into consideration your staff’s leave request vis-à-vis your traffic. Remember to send the weekly shift schedule to your staff at least two weeks in advance so that your team is well in the know when they have to time in. Whether you’re a start-up restaurateur or a veteran with a dozen restaurants under your belt, ensuring coverage can make you have sleepless nights. But with a proper plan that you consistently execute and fine-tune, your customers are guaranteed enjoy great service any time of the day.
Product Updates |
Tanda Time Clock Now Available for the Desktop
We at Tanda are pleased to announce that our time clock application is now available to download for Windows and macOS devices. Starting today, employees can have the same experience they’ve always enjoyed with the tablet version of our employee time clock, but now on the desktop. It accurately records employee attendance and compares it with the weekly rota. It also updates the timesheets automatically to the cloud and stores it offline when the device is not connected. And if the computer has a webcam installed, it can also take a selfie of the employee when they clock in and out just like the mobile app! There are so many great uses for Tanda Time Clock for the Desktop. You can now have employees clock in and out in their respective desktop workstations instead of going to wherever the tablet is located. It can also be a backup option if and when your office’s main Tanda Time Clock is unavailable. Remote employees can also use the Tanda Time Clock for the Desktop to clock in and out using their own computers. Existing users can click here to find out how to download the Tanda Time Clock for Desktop. Are you a new user? Signup for free here to use Tanda to track time and attendance for your business, and so much more.
Industry Insights UK |
5 Restaurant Hiring Mistakes You Should NEVER Make
A restaurant’s X factor is the people running it. With that, it’s important to make sure that you’re not making any mistakes when hiring for your restaurant. You might be plating up great food every day, but it won’t lead to rave reviews online if your staff aren’t up to par. To help you out in creating the perfect team for your restaurant, we’ve listed down the top 5 hiring mistakes you should avoid at all costs when recruiting new staff. Not Having a Clear-Cut Job Description You may think filling out job descriptions for your restaurant is a piece of cake, but it’s not. Neglecting to be clear-cut during this process will bite you back in the end. When starting the hiring process, you should dedicate a lot of time in creating your staff’s job descriptions. Make sure you be as precise as possible when listing out your personnel’s tasks. “It’s not just ‘here’s a job, you’re a server and you sell food,’” David Scott Peters of TheRestaurantExpert.com said in this video. According to him, the job description of a restaurant server or waiter should look something like this: He or she is expected to greet customers within two minutes He or she should introduce himself or herself then take an appetizer order They should be back within two minutes to take your customer’s order Within five minutes, the order should be in the POS with 100% accuracy And so on, and so forth The job description should not just identify what the job is. It should indicate how to do the job, how well the job should be done, and by when the job should be done. Not Using Referrals So you’ve made comprehensive job descriptions and posted it on your company website, on social media, or at recruitment sites. But solely relying on these channels can only go so far in ensuring that your restaurant has high-quality staff. According to this article from ERE Media, those hired using employee referrals are more likely to stay on board beyond two years than those hired from job boards or career sites. Having an excellent employee referral program within your restaurant pays dividends to both management and staff. According to this article from the National Restaurant Association, team members are highly motivated when there is a referral system in place. Starbucks recruiting manager Tom Tice adds that “the real value is that they’re getting good people to work aside.” Referrals are not just limited to existing employees. The same NRA article also advocates for “second-interview referrals.” Encourage existing candidates to bring in someone they know on their second interview to fill in other open positions. Chances are, they’ll bring someone good to impress you. Hiring Those Who Don’t Fit In With the Culture It goes without saying that a restaurant should run a tight ship. Peak hours mean cooks churning out dish after dish like clockwork, waiters rushing from kitchen to table every so often, and hosts patiently accommodating those waiting to be served. It could be an extremely stressful environment that leads to a lot of personal squabbles at the heat of the moment. This is exactly why your restaurant staff should have excellent rapport bound by common culture. For celebrity chef-restaurateur and the host of Vice TV’s Fresh Off the Boat Eddie Huang, what he wants in his restaurant are people with a sense of humor. “It translates into great customer service,” he says. “It also helps contribute to the vibe of the restaurant. TheRestaurantExpert.com’s David Scott Peters’ video from earlier also talks about how important culture is in a restaurant. For him, he’d hire someone for culture over experience. Peters added that it’s easy for him to teach someone how to count out a bar drawer. But he can’t get employees “to show up and smile every day.” “If you are not a fit for my culture, you’re going to be a cancer in my business,” he says. Not Doing Interviews the Right Way It’s easy to hire the wrong person when you think of the interview process as just a formality. It goes without saying that there is more to a candidate than just what they look like on paper. It is during the interview phase you’ll be able to find out if they’re compatible with the job description and the culture you are building in your restaurant. All you need to do is do it right. Typsy has an article with tips on hiring and keeping restaurant staff. Inside it is a list of questions that you can use for your next interview. Some of the questions we highly recommend are: What do you think is most important when dealing with customers? How do you cope with stressful situations? What would you do if you got 30 minutes of downtime? What kind of work environment do you shine in? What’s your own favourite restaurant? What do you like about the industry? What is something you didn’t like about your last job? What are your expectations of this position? To further help you nail the interview process, the NRA also has an article with tips on the right way to interview the candidate. Neglecting to Call References and Doing Background Checks You might have to hire from all walks of life: from culinary school graduates to part-time high-school students. You need to know for sure that they can be trusted with your business. Calling upon references and doing background checks is one sure-fire way to give you that peace of mind when hiring your restaurant’s staff. Opentable recommends that you ask each candidate to provide three professional references when they apply. Make sure that at least two of three people named get back at you before moving forward with the application process. For those who are going to handle money on a daily basis, such as servers and managers, a quick background check is crucial to find out their credibility based on their previous work history and other factors. Having the right people on your staff is the key ingredient for every successful restaurant. And being careless on the hiring stage will guarantee a difficult time for you in the long run. Make sure to avoid these mistakes and set your A-team’s rota the right way to ensure your restaurant is a well-oiled machine any time of the day.