How Do You Handle a Mini-Crisis?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Recently I was staying at a hotel in New York for a few days because I was facilitating a program there for a client. On the first morning, I set up the training room so I would be ready to start at 8 am, then went to the hotel restaurant to get breakfast. The restaurant was supposed to open at 7 am, but at 7:15, the doors were still locked. Eventually, the restaurant hostess opened the doors and explained that the server hadn't shown up for work.

The hostess was clearly flustered and probably frustrated, but she adjusted quickly. She bustled from table to table, taking orders with a smile, apologizing for the delay and attacking the situation with an energy that was evident and reassuring. Even though the situation wasn't ideal, she made the best of it. She acknowledged the situation, did what she could to remedy it and communicated often to us about when our meals would be ready. As customers, we sympathized with her situation and appreciated her effort. And I still left her a big tip (and, yes, I did make it to the training room on time – barely).

The following day, there was a similar situation when only one server showed up at 7 am, instead of the two that had been scheduled for what was going to be a busier day. (Yes, this hotel clearly had some major issues around processes and customer service – let's just say that my client won't be returning there for future programs). This time, the one server was clearly overwhelmed – she was sullen, moved slowly from table to table and didn't smile. The situation was the same as the previous day, but this time, the server showed no energy and didn't really communicate with the customers about what was going on. As a result, the customers got frustrated and angry.

The next time you have a mini-crisis on your hands, choose how you will respond. Acknowledge the situation and do what you can to make it better. Even though you may not be able to control the situation, your response can make all the difference in whether your customers (or colleagues) end up sympathetic and appreciative, or frustrated and angry.

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