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Have You Developed Your Employees to Do What an App Will Do?


Tue Aug 27 2013

Have You Developed Your Employees to Do What an App Will Do?

Today, employee engagement and the customer experiences are being affected (both positively and negatively) by the free flow of information and apps. While there’s been plenty of talk about Big Data, there’s been little focus on how applications, algorithms, and data affect the experienced of frontline employee and customers.

Let me give you a very simple example. We were in Toronto at our international headquarters staying at the Thompson Hotel downtown, which has one of the hottest celebrity chefs and in-demand restaurants, Scarpetta. We made a 7:00 p.m. reservation with our best friends in the city, planning for the typical rough Toronto traffic. If anyone’s been to Toronto, you know what I’m talking about. It makes LA traffic look like a picnic.


It turns out that this particular evening, traffic was non-existent and they arrived at the hotel at 6:18. At this point, the restaurant was completely empty and only had one party in the dining room.  I approach the immaculately attired and beautiful hostess to let her know we have a 7:00 reservation for four, but our party arrived early and we would like to be seated.

She studied her reservation book, looked at me, looked back down at her reservation book, looked back at me and said with a pleasant smile, “My apologies, sir. We are fully committed tonight. Unfortunately, I cannot seat you early. If you and your party would like to have a drink in the lounge, I’ll be sure to notify you at 7:00.”

At this point, Steve and Kim, each took one or maybe even two steps backward. I guess they’ve seen me in action before. When I started mumbling to myself, they became a little trepidatious about what would come out of my mouth next.

I said, “Ma’am, take a look behind you. The restaurant is completely empty.”

She said, “Yes, Sir, I understand, but the tables will soon be filled.”


Without access at my fingertips to better information or the same information than this lovely, polite hostess (although she seemed to enjoy not helping me), I might have

a) gone into psychological counseling to get what I wanted from her

b) become the customer from hell

c) been frustrated, gone to the lobby and simmer in my own discontent while I waited for a table in an empty restaurant

Instead of using those options, I am now armed with


d) I got an app for that!

I politely took one step back from the hostess stand, took out my iPhone, hit my Open Table app, punched in a table for 4 at 6:30, and was guaranteed a reservation, After my reservation was guaranteed, I was asked if I’d like to make any special requests, of which I typed in, “Yes, I’d like this establishment to train their Director of First Impressions to do what my app will do.”

I then, not so politely, took my iPhone with my reservation and did a touchdown dance in her face and asked her if she would please now show us to our table. She turned bright red, got her manager, and went on to give me all the reasons why she simply did not seat us when I asked.

My reply to her manager was, “You know the restaurant has an app for that, so I believe you need to, at a minimum, train your employees to at least do what ever the app will do.”

So, you can see by this simple illustration the impacts and implications are limitless around how technology and apps are going to affect employee engagement, the customer experience, and create the need—more than ever—for common sense at all key touch points.

If you are an individual contributor or have you ever been in the situation where technology has made you look silly? If you are a leader, have you ever put your people in a position where an app can make a better decision than you allow your employees to make?

Answer: Of course it has, and I know you have.

The most important question is: What are you going to do about it going forward?

P.S. The spaghetti at Scarpetta’s is unbelievable.

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