Mayo's Clinics

Jul 11, 2020, 10:49
Customer Service is an Attitude

Customer Service is an Attitude

29 March 2019

Strategies for encouraging positive attitude include illustrating case studies, demonstrating a positive attitude yourself and sharing quotes about the value of a good outlook.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

For the last several months, we have been discussing customer service – what it is, how to teach it, and how to evaluate it. This month, we will discuss the topic from a broader perspective by discussing a person’s attitude, the most important aspect of customer service.

The Goal
An attitude is a feeling or emotion demonstrated in behavior toward other people, events, and situations. Often, it is described as negative or positive; we never seem to discuss or notice a neutral attitude! Since people with a negative attitude make poor staff members, difficult team players, and problematic professionals, we need to foster in our students a positive attitude so that they become positive and successful professionals. A positive attitude spawns a can-do approach to challenges. Persons with a positive attitude see problems as challenges to face and see obstacles as puzzles to solve. They bring creative energy to their work and enjoy the opportunity to interact with other people. They tend to smile – as opposed to frown – a lot and carry an attitude of gratitude throughout their lives.

We want culinary and hospitality professionals to be positive, to treat everyone with a warm welcome, to cooperate and support their colleagues, to create wonderful food, to focus on serving diners and guests, and to see each challenge at work as an opportunity to learn something. It is easy to teach them cooking skills but much harder to teach attitudes. Alain Ducasse said, “Techniques are not the most difficult to teach. The attitudes chefs take are much more important.”

As part of our commitment to increasing the professionalism of our students, we regularly encourage them to bring a positive and open attitude to each and every situation they face. We remind them to start each shift or day with a smile since it creates good energy around them and draws other people to them. Chefs normally have a very positive attitude – after all, most of them want to feed people and make them happy with good food, prepared with care. Student chefs sometime find it hard to remain positive when there is so much to learn. And we often focus on cooking skills and presentation and neglect the positive attitude.

Strategies to Encourage a Positive Attitude
There are several ways to encourage a positive attitude; the first one is to demonstrate the importance and power of a positive attitude by always being positive yourself. Serve as a role model for your students and your colleagues by being positive in every way you can. When you have a chance, smile at people and encourage them. When listening to someone, take care to really listen and respond. When given a challenge, show how it can be an opportunity to do really well. Use your creativity and perform at your best. What great lessons for our students to observe!

A second strategy involves sharing motivational quotes about the value of a positive attitude. Many chefs and restaurateurs have made these statements as using them demonstrates the industry-wide prevalence of operating with a positive attitude. There are also many online quotes (like the following from persons in various professions) which you can post in your classroom or weave into your lectures:

  • “If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” Pat Riley, American football coach
  • “Adopting a really positive attitude can work wonders to adding years to your life, a spring to your step, a sparkle to your eye, and all of that.” Christie Brinkley, famous model
  • “I think the best advice came from Drew Barrymore, about always finding love in everything you do and keeping a positive attitude and being thankful.” Bella Thorne, actress
  • “Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A 'you can do it' when things are tough.” Richard M. DeVos, American businessman

And you can find many inspiring quotes on your own that may relate more specifically to points you want to make to your students about hard work, perseverance, love of food, care for ingredients, continuous learning, and professionalism.

A third strategy involves using case studies or anecdotes to point out the value of a positive attitude toward people and work. Either use examples and situations from your experience or create ones that you hear about or read about. Don’t underestimate the value of a story or a case study of a real situation. You can make them part of quizes, class discussions, homework or examinations. It shows that attitude is as important as aptitude and smiling is as important as skills.

Hopefully, this Mayo Clinic encourages you to consider encouraging a positive attitude among your students in any situation where you have a chance. Next month, we will discuss another dimension of customer service – how to resolve service problems. If you have suggestions for other topics or teaching practices you want to share, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will include them in future Mayo Clinics.

Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, is retired as a clinical professor of hotel and tourism management at New York University. As principal of Mayo Consulting Services, he continues to teach around the globe and is a regular presenter at CAFÉ events nationwide.