Dickinson Theatres uses the motto "Ask, don't tell" to create a strong customer-service training orientation at its 39 locations. Jeff Garber, operations trainer for the 200-screen cinema chain, based in Mission, Kans., says the policy of creating a positive environment works in three ways:
Managers respond with "What would you do?" when a front-line employee asks how to handle a customer request. "Most young people are used to being told what to do, but if you spoon-feed directions to your team members, they stop thinking for themselves. We want them to turn on their brains so they can respond positively to customers," says Garber.
When employees interact with upset moviegoers, they ask customers what they want, rather than dictate the solution. Customer solutions are often the best.
Employees are taught to treat each other with courtesy and respect. Instead of yelling to a coworker "I need a large popcorn!" they ask politely. "Each week we receive comments from customers who noticed how considerate team members are with one another," says Garber. "It turns a fear-driven organization into an empowering one."
The results have been dramatic for both employees and customers. Average annual employee turnover in the industry is in the high double-digits, but it was less than 3% for the first theater Dickinson opened using an intense, customer service-oriented training program. Customer satisfaction scores have risen, and local film critics have commented on the positive moviegoing experience at Dickinson Theatres.