5-Stars and the Fear of Three Butts

In honor of National Customer Service Week (October 5th through October 9th 2015) my blog of 10/6 thanked customer service people everywhere and looked forward to change in building a company culture around providing great customer experiences and treating your employees exceptionally well with benefits, career paths and rewards.
In honor of National Customer Service Week, this 2nd blog is about reflection back to where customer service began in one waitress’s life.
“One Butt, two butt, three butts – Your Butt.”  That was a simple enough directive from our Beverage Director at the Five-Star hotel I worked at while in grad school.  People could smoke in bars and even sections of restaurants then.  The ashtray was small, round, white porcelain with gold leaf trim and it was instilled in us that having more than two cigarette butts in the ashtray would hinder our five- star customer service reputation.  If our manager saw 3 butts we would be “written up” and after three- write-ups, dismissed.
Imagine watching a room full of smokers, eyeing white ashtrays, counting butts, memorizing the length of the cigarettes to anticipate when the last drag will start the downward action resulting in the red ember meeting the white porcelain.  This, while clearing happy hour buffet plates, serving countless cocktails, appetizers, dinners, opening bottles of expensive wine and champagne, pouring expensive wine and champagne all the while never allowing more than 2 butts in an ashtray.  The enemy was the flash of a lighter or match which prompted a b-line maneuver to get to that ashtray, pick-it up and put a clean one down.
I worked at that hotel full time and part time for 5 years and left on my own accord to take a marketing position.
Many years have passed, yet I still hear that phrase in my head.  My experience with one simple rule of customer service taught me more than how to keep ashtrays clean.  It has guided me to strive to provide five- star service for my clients and also be a gracious consumer.  You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat a waitress or waiter and having experienced that early on was invaluable.
While there I learned how to follow directions, multi-task, up-sell and cross-sell, I learned timing and how to communicate effectively with my customers and co-workers and monitor the room to anticipate customer needs by reading nonverbal communications and gestures while never having more than 1 or two butts in an ashtray.  Fear of staying employed was the initial driving force behind providing a 5-star customer service experience, and then it became natural.
I am thankful for what the fear of 3 butts and a 5-star hotel experience instilled in me.  Thanks Ray!

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