An OCS lesson learned through thin walls

July 26, 2022
As an operator, when you have the opportunity to hire a sales rep or a customer service person with genuine empathy, a sense of pride in their work and the desire to satisfy the customer, do not let that type of employee get away.

Perhaps by design, the walls are ultra-thin at the chic Moxy Hotel in Portland. Such closeness creates a bizarre sense of community. While in my room, I was stopped in my tracks by a loud conversation coming from my next-door neighbor, a customer service rep who was “waxing poetic” about the ups and downs of his job.

What I reluctantly heard

“I don’t hate my job,” he told his female companion. “I just don’t love it.”

“What DO you like about it?” she asked.

“I like the flexibility. I make my own schedule seeing customers.”

“I like dealing with people – some of them are fun to work with.”

“I like the entertaining.”

“I like the pay – it’s decent and there is no commission, which is good, even though they want me to earn some from upselling.”

“I like that I don’t have to take my work home with me.”

“I like that I’m not stuck behind a desk.”

“OK,” said his friend, “It sounds like you really like the job. What do you not like about it?”

“Sometimes, the customers are not happy, and I have to deal with that.”

“They want me to do some prospecting – I’d rather not.”

“They want me to ask for referrals – not my favorite thing.”

“They want me follow up on new customers to make sure they are satisfied. Why would I care?”

“I really love the idea of working from home, but they won’t let me.”

“Is your boss happy with your performance?” asked the friend.

“I’m still there and I actually got a raise after the 90-day review – so I guess so.”

Thin walls – thin talent pool

As an operator, how often do you put up with mediocre employees, largely because the talent pool is as thin as the walls at the Moxy? It’s a challenge, but one that truly requires a cautious approach when it comes to people that you hire in the “customer care” role. An ambivalent customer service rep can undo so much of the goodwill that your company has worked so hard to create.

Lacking critical DNA

The problem with my hotel neighbor is a common one. While he is clearly performative (certainly vocal), can organize his thoughts and has some analytical skills, he lacks the DNA that defines successful operators (businesspeople in general) and certainly, exceptional customer service reps. The best of breed in our industry is genuinely excited about a brilliantly executed installation. I personally have stood back and admired a new OCS or micro market set up that occurred because of my sales effort, with the same joy that I would experience when looking at fine art. There was also a strong sense of pride associated with the final product. Do you know the feeling?

True empathy

My neighbor also clearly lacks that gene that makes you feel almost euphoric when the customer is completely satisfied. Many of my former employees went so far above and beyond to satisfy the customer that at times, I had to remind them who they worked for! They loved to deliver customer satisfaction – a valuable trait for a customer service person.

A keeper

As an operator, when you have the opportunity to hire a sales rep or a customer service person with genuine empathy, a sense of pride in their work and the desire to satisfy the customer, do not let that type of employee get away, especially if the issue is money. They will pay for themselves many times over.

Two strategies to consider

In the meantime, if you are stuck with an employee who is like my neighbor at the hotel, there are two strategies you can employ:

  • If you don’t use Customer Relationship Management software, make them do short, written customer evaluation surveys when they meet with clients. At the very least, you know they are engaging with the client on the topics you want covered.
  • Develop an incentive program for account retention – gift cards or added compensation for small goals accomplished, payable monthly. Immediate gratification can help keep an ambivalent employee on track.

If neither of these strategies work, then you know it is time to “check out and upgrade.”


Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer and business columnist who advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up. He also specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry - coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically.

Tullio delivers this promise to any company that hires him for a 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom call: "One short session with me will elevate the performance of your sales team.”

Tullio can be reached at [email protected] or 818 261-1758.


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