Somehow our neighbor didn’t recognize our universal “don’t bother us” sign as we pulled into the garage and closed the door…before turning off the van’s engine. We had just returned from swim practice with three soaking wet kids, and it was already past their bedtime. Our oldest, and youngest, ran right to their bedrooms—but our middle child has learned that if he goes back to his room with a wet bathing suit, he will be forced to immediately bring it back to the laundry room, which is located right next to where he was standing, at our garage entrance.
Therefore, he did what any clever and immodest nine-year old would do—he took everything off right at the door, avoiding a required return trip. On this occasion, he was standing there in his birthday suit, while holding his other suit, just as the doorbell rang. The neighbor had blown through our “do not disturb sign” because she wanted to share her condolences over us losing our 18-month-old lab just two days earlier.
As my wife and neighbor settled into what would play out as a rather lengthy conversation in our entry area, my son was now hiding in the dining room—a position that would require one perilous sprint across to his bedroom. As a result, I did what every parenting book would instruct and told him to make a run for it. When that didn’t work, I tried encouraging him, harassing him, challenging him and maybe even slightly pushing him.
Discouraged with my inadequate parenting skills, I returned to the kitchen, only to be completely surprised two minutes later—when I saw a boy make a mad dash across the foyer to our bedroom. What had changed his mind—and how had he grown a couple inches in two minutes? Then I realized it was my 10-year old son who had taken the leap.
My older son instinctively knows the best way to teach someone is through demonstration. Instead of trying to convince his brother to run the gauntlet, he simply took off his (now dry) clothes and showed him how to do it. And within a minute, his younger brother joined him on the other side of the house. For “good measure,” they then both ran back to the dining room and across the house a second time.
The best teaching tools draw their influence from real life—and that is why case studies, role-playing and simulations are such powerful tools in our quest for better education and training of our team members. While case studies may be the most effective, they are intensive to create, which makes them challenging for day-to-day learning. Likewise, role-playing can be equally difficult to create, and can also lend itself to getting way off topic without strong moderation.
Simulations, on the other hand, can and should be an effective tool for training your team daily. One of the most powerful applications for this technique is in service recovery training. We go to great lengths to ensure exceptional service delivery, but occasionally a ball is dropped by even the best of teams. Prior to training in service recovery, we had a tendency to take a bad situation and make it worse. Now, with regular training in this area, we consistently experience the “service recovery paradox.”
This phenomenon occurs when a member or guest leaves your facility with a higher regard for the operation because a service mistake happened while they were there. In other words, your team is so well-trained that they take a bad situation and not only recover from it, but surpass it in expectations.
The sequential keys to service recovery are acknowledging, apologizing, correcting the situation, and expressing appreciation for the feedback. There is no more effective way of teaching this than during daily pre-service meetings. Ask your team for yesterday’s service examples, and by going through simulations together, you will change today’s, and tomorrow’s, outcomes for the better.
John Wooden, UCLA’s Hall of Fame basketball coach, would repeat the mantra, “Be quick, but don’t hurry” hundreds of times every practice. When things go wrong while you are on the floor, we instinctively revert to our training—so if your service recovery training isn’t good, the delivery won’t be effective either.
This spring, world leaders underwent computerized war-game scenarios while at a nuclear summit. Even they realized the power in using simulations to prepare for future stressful scenarios. So whether you are a child trying to get to his bedroom, protecting the free world from World War III, or simply running a club, these tools will help you greatly improve your desired outcomes.
Thanks for reading.