“You ready? The grill closes at 1:35pm so it can cool off by 2pm” the woman said almost coercing us to tell her we’ll pass. It was 1:25pm. The cafe closes at 2pm.

My wife orders a combo from the one menu sitting at the counter. “We don’t have any of that stuff.” Now I just can’t help it and I have to say something. “Why is it out then?” “Cause it’s stuff we used to have, but we don’t anymore,” she refuted. I quickly realized in terms of laziness, I was superiorly outmatched. 

Let me rewind. Before we walked in I already knew the hours of operation. I saw a gentleman mopping. I saw the grill clean. Yet, we were hungry and timed our meal at a specific time since we knew we wouldn’t have access to food for a long time. While I love to help people out, I wasn’t going to pass up on food because they were one step ahead of the game in preparation for closing time. 

So customer satisfaction is derived from adopting a position to provide your assistance, service, or time to those looking to use or consume your product or service. In this instance, the employee cared about closing more than the customer, and in doing so created a poor customer experience. I don’t like to use the word service because that has a more finite feel to it. When we use the word experience it captures how your impression of the person and ultimately the business will linger. 

It took the woman almost no time to make our meals. When she realized we hadn’t inconvenienced her as much as she was anticipating we would, she became a little more vivacious and conversational. 

None of this is the woman’s fault. This is her leader’s doing. It was clear an environment had been created where her ownership of the grill, closing time, etc. meant that she could incentivize herself to be out as soon as possible to include shutting the grill down 25 minutes prior to closing time. 

Leadership comes from setting an example not of how you want to portray the business, but more so on what you desire the customer experience to be. Now that I’m in the “entrepreneurial” business I look at my watch much less now. And when I do, I’m always like “Shit it’s that late already!!?” I feel like I need more hours and more undistracted time. 

When you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you’re constanty wondering what time it is so you can count how much time you have left. We all do it or have done it. I’m just glad to be done with that aspect of employment and I hope it’s permanent. Feelings of guilt would always surface when I was in my various positions of leadership and all I wanted to do was be home or away from where I was.

That meant one thing and one thing only. I wasn’t providing value to anyone; at least not to my fullest potential. The customer experience of those in my charge was shortchanged. And that feeling is far far worse than having a few hours left to go. 

When you find yourself in these situations, you can tough it out. You can be strong for your people. Ultimately though, there will come a point where it’s simply exhausting. If you’re a leader, the best example you can set if to position yourself on a daily basis to contribute at the highest level- not due to sheer work ethic, but because you care that deeply about where you are and what you do. If you’re not there you’re only marking time and waiting to close the cafe.