A lot can be learned from Starbucks. That’s one of the reasons I regularly read John Moore’s Brand Autopsy blog (he was with Starbucks in his previous work life). Recently, he wrote about “touchology”. Here’s an excerpt:

For Starbucks, high-touching its business is about empowering and trusting store partners to be real, to be genuine, and by all means … to be human. Starbucks does not give partners a detailed script that instructs them what to say and how to act with customers.
Instead, Starbucks acknowledges store partners have been trained to understand all facets of the business and the company trusts these partners to show their personality when interacting with customers.

Sound familiar? Hire passionate people, let them be real, creative, etc.

John also makes a good point about training. Being adequately trained is paramount to success in the people business. It instills confidence and allows the personality of the individual to really shine. It takes the guesswork out of the job and gives the employee the freedom to be themselves, much like what sop’s and standards should do. On the flipside, if you over train or put up too many barriers and constraints, your guests will be dealing with robots. Obviously, it’s a fine line.

People want to do business with people. So, let them.