Staying on Stage

Retail. Working with the general public. Customer Service.

For most people, these terms alone bring about negative images. Why? Because it describes situations that can be really, really hard.

I tend to feel differently most of the time.

My career has been for the most part spent in positions that required me to not only work directly with the end users of whatever our product was; but also have put me in a position that required me to be the best person in the group at doing so.

Being a manager in those situations usually requires that a person is the one with the highest level of ability to handle any situation with a guest.

I spend a lot of time coaching skills with my teammates. We talk through experiences, good and bad, and we reflect together on what went right, and on what could have gone better.

But there is one tenet that I always seem to come back to. Over the years I have likely told people a few thousand times that the biggest way to provide the right experience is to just Stay on Stage.

It is a fairly obvious metaphor.

We imagine an actor. The bright lights are on.. the curtain is open. There is a scene to be played out. In order to receive a standing ovation; the actor has to be able to set aside anything else that is rattling around in their mind and realize they are on stage.

We can never let our guest have the impression that we may have any single other thing to do today than to take care of their needs. Every guest needs to feel as though they are the most important person we will meet. They need to understand that we care about them. We care about their time. And we are very interested in ensuring that the time they are sharing with us is of the highest possible quality.

In our world it is 100% about our guest. 100% of the time.

So what does it mean to Stay on Stage?

It means that every bit of us, every nuance, everything that happens in our place will reflect an ideal of what the guest expects of us.

It means that our language, both verbal and simple body language portrays us according to how the guest expects us to be.

Like an actor on the stage, we need to always and consciously ensure that we are embracing and embodying those things.


We need to always make sure that we look sharp and professional. A sloppy appearance implies sloppy work. This extends from our own grooming and dressing habits all the way to making sure that our facility is beyond clean and friendly.

We need to always be certain to project an image of both us and of our brand that far and away exceeds anything the competition can offer.

We need to fully embrace the ten-second rule in our interactions. Spend an extra ten seconds on the guest in the interest of ensuring a great experience. Things we can do that take ten seconds: Inflate a helium balloon and give it to a child in the waiting area. Open the car door for them or the door into the building when we see them coming in. Double check that in our case, the car is properly clean, and that the job has been done properly before returning it to them. Put a note in the system that will remind us of a conversation point next time we see them.

Can you imagine the impact that these little, easy actions could have on an experience with us? Ten Seconds each.

Being on stage means that we legitimately care. We care about our work. We care about our guest. We care about our teammates. You have never seen a truly good act on stage if all of the players were not moving according to script and in harmony. We cannot fake being on stage. We need to be able and willing to give of ourselves for each other and to give of ourselves for the guest.

Being on stage means that we are prepared. Have we taken the time to know what is happening today? Have we planned for it?

Being on stage means that we are able to ad-lib when we have to do so. We must be able to adjust to the unexpected. We must be able to be reactive in a positive and thoughtful way in the situations where being proactive wasnt possible.. Shit does indeed happen. Remain on stage, remain flexible, and ad-lib where necessary.

“Not by the bat of an eyelash shall they know”

Image is everything. A mentor, who had spent many many years of his life literally on stage as a musician once told me that the key to getting the Standing O was to ensure that “not by the bat of an eyelash shall they know that you have not been perfect.”

What he was referring to was the ability to stay on stage. The bat of the eyelash could be something affecting you outside of work. It could be a frustration about something happening with your present task. It might take the simple form of feeling hungry because your lunch has been delayed. It doesnt matter. WE can never allow that to be projected to the guest. WE must always remain on stage. There is a time and place for frustration,

“We don’t run. We walk quickly, but we never run.”

I use this one from time to time. I read it years ago when reading a journal from a person who was in politics. He told a story about an event manager, I believe it was somebody associated with Bill Clinton. This event manager had things really hit the fan, and the story teller had the inclination to run toward the flames…. The Event planner stopped him and said “walk. we never run. people are watching.”

Our reactions are priceless to the guest experience. If we run, we exude panic. we exude incompetence.

If we walk quickly we exude the opposite. We appear confident. We appear capable.

We don’t run means that we will never allow ourselves to appear frazzled or stressed. We will maintain our stage presence. We will keep our cool. We will find a solution quickly and efficiently.

“Listen to understand, not to respond”

When a guest is telling us their needs, their concerns, or their frustrations, the single best way that we can help is to ensure that we understand them completely. Being on the defense will never ever allow us to do that. We need to always make sure that we actively listen to them until they are done talking. Then we need to make sure that we clarify with them specifically and in a caring way what those things are that they need and want from us.

“We will be the recognized leader of guest service by treating everybody like family”

This IS our mission. we need to imagine each person we see as somebody who has been invited to visit with us. we need to ensure that they feel as though they had a positive experience and are looking forward to coming back.

Each summer; my family and I are invited to a memorial day gathering by a friend of ours. We have rearranged our schedules to ensure that we are able to attend. Why? Because we always feel welcomed, WE always feel as though we are treated like part of their family.

“My pleasure”

This is how we respond when we are asked for something. Why?
Consider all that I have talked about here today. Is there another way to respond that fits the bill better? Of course it is our pleasure to provide the guest with whatever it is they need from us. That is what we do. That is what we are good at. And that is what sets us apart. The fact that it is our pleasure to take care of them and treat them like family.

Until Next Time.


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