My very first job was at the new Western Sizzlin’ SteakHouse in Springfield, Missouri. I was 16, drove my VW convertible bug from high school in the afternoons and began waitressing. Those of us who were hired to help open the new restaurant spent two days — paid — learning the rules of the place, how to be good servers and what to do when we had problems. At night, when I’d return home smelling like steak sauce, but with pockets filled with tips, I was grateful for the training. And when I quit to go to college, “Mr. B.”, the owner, gave me a hug and told me that whenever I needed a reference, he’d write me a glowing report. I am now decades past that time, and still appreciative of the kindness I was shown — Mr. B. made me feel as if I helped make his business a success.
As adults, we tend to forget those lessons and sometimes expect today’s teens to understand customer service and their value as employees. We look for teens we can count on, often teach them the basics of the job and let them go.
And we miss several opportunities.
If we’d work beside them for a bit, show them the value of true customer service — that little step that makes OUR business better than our competitor’s — these teen employees begin to see the effort of competition.
If we involve these kids in the successes of our business, they see the result of extra effort.
If we lead by example, they understand why people often put not only their finances into creating a business, but their hearts and souls.
And these young employees will work harder for you and become your business advocates.
Tell your employees to spit out their gum, turn off their cell phones and focus on the customer. Encourage them to ask questions — how was your shopping experience, is there anything I can help you with, did you hear about our upcoming sale? Give them the tools to make them good at their jobs.
In the end, the efforts you make to create great teen employees could be your business’s greatest reward.