“I Am Just…”

Have you ever come across an individual who began a sentence with the words, “Sorry, I am just?”  For example, “I am just a cashier” or “I am just a delivery person.”  In the service industry whether it’s in retail or hospitality, it has become such a natural response that people are forgetting the fundamental principles of customer service.  By responding with the phrase, “I am just,” you are really saying “I don’t care, it’s not my job or it’s not my problem.”  Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  The truth is that is exactly how customers feel when given such a response.

What Purpose does “I am just” Serve?

Take for example a particular real life situation that occurred a couple months ago.  A gentleman was seated in a private room away from the restaurant’s main dining room.  He had requested his check over 20 minutes ago and had not received it nor had any of the restaurant’s waitstaff return to the area.  Frustrated, the gentleman enters the main dining room to find out what had happened.  He approaches the first employee he can find which happens to be a bartender.

“Excuse me! I have been waiting to pay for over 20 minutes.  I need to leave and no one has come back to my table.”

“Sorry, I am just the bartender, I cannot help you.”

“Where is your manager? I like to speak to him or her.”

The bartender continues to stand there.  A busboy overhears the conversation but brushes right past the gentleman.  The assigned waiter for the gentleman’s table is no where to be found and the manager is neither in the dining area or is visible.  The bartender sees another busboy and tells him to find the manager.  Five minutes late, the assigned waiter appears and returns to the table.  However, the manager does not make contact with the gentleman.

There are two parts of this story which is damaging to the restaurant’s reputation.  First, instead of taking control of the situation, the bartender had ignored it.  Second, the manager did not visit the table and apologize to the gentleman.  Therefore the only opportunity of a service recovery was blown.  These types of events in this example occurs everyday in the service industry.  Unfortunately, many companies do not realize the negative effects of something as simple as saying “I am just” can impact a business.

Avoiding Conflicts

Once you understand the damaging effects of the “I am just” statement, you need to identify the reasons why do people respond that way.  There are three primary reasons:

  1. In the mind of the employee, he/she believes that based on the position they hold, there are a set of duties that are given to them. The belief is anything out of this boundary is not their responsibility.  In the example above, the bartender believes that the problem should be placed on the assigned waiter. True, the waiter should take responsibility for their own customer, but there is no excuse for the bartender to disregard that the gentleman is still a customer of the restaurant.
  2. An employee has not been empowered to make decisions.  Part of the problems lies within the company’s way of handling situations.  Take another example which occurred when a delivery of restaurant china had arrived.  Upon inspecting the shipment, we noticed that the company had sent the wrong types of plates and cappuccino mugs.  The invoice had the correct item number, but the shipment was incorrect.  The driver immediately informed us that he was only a driver and that he could do nothing about it.  In this particular example, the driver could have handled the situation differently.  Was it necessary to tell us he was only a driver?  Absolutely not.  He further explained that he did not have the authority to make any decisions without the approval of the company.
  3. Lack of training focusing on customer service can lead to unnecessary events such as the stories of the bartender and the driver. Common sense tells us that we have to serve the customer.  How we do it will affect the outcome.  In both examples from the standpoint of the bartender and the driver, they both had confirmed their role and responsibilities to the company.  However, they completely disregarded the role and duty that they play to the customer.

A customer expects a certain level of service and when that level is not achieved, consequences immediately kick in.  “I Am Just,” is another lame excuse of saying you just don’t care.  When a problem arises, ensure your employees understand how to take care of the problem.  Listen, acknowledge and apologize.

Know your Role

The next time someone makes a request, be prepared to help them. If you are unable to directly assist them, kindly inform them that you will find someone who will.  Just don’t stand there.  Show them that you care.

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One Response to ““I Am Just…””

  1. kaming Says:

    couldn’t agree more!

    but it reminded me of this famous (infamous actually) restaurant in london chinatown (“Wong Kee”, typical cantonese roast duck & cha-siu rice noodles etc.) for the rudeness of it’s service. it somehow became an attraction!

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