I have a love/hate relationship with the automatic paper towel dispensers found in public restrooms. I love their convenience. I love their simplicity. I love that there are no handles or levers to touch and therefore no germs to spread. A mere wave of my hand brings forth the paper towel. The process is almost Jedi-like.

I hate, however, when the dispensers send forth an inadequate length of paper. Not every dispenser does this, but the ones that do drive me crazy!

I wave my hand under the dispenser’s sensor and only a few inches of paper towel come out of the slot. Those few inches aren’t nearly enough to sufficiently dry my hands, so I have to wait for the sensor to reset and then repeat the process. The subsequently dispensed amount is still not enough and requires yet another cycle of wait, reset, and repeat.

After three or four cycles, I can finally tear off enough paper towel to dry my hands. But now I’m annoyed and frustrated by the inconvenience of the experience—and so are the people waiting in line behind me.

What frustrates me the most is that the process doesn’t have to be this way. Automatic paper towel dispensers come with adjustable settings. Management can choose the length of paper the machines dispense.

I presume the dispensers that are releasing only a few inches at a time are the business’ way of saving money. They assume the customer will use less paper if less paper is dispensed, or that maybe the customer won’t have the patience to wait through several cycles.

If that is the situation, then their approach is a bit myopic. They are, as the expression goes, being penny wise but pound foolish.

The revenues lost through their customers’ frustrations outweigh the potential money saved by their customers using less paper. Frustrated customers don’t leave happy. Frustrated customers don’t spread positive word of mouth. Frustrated customers don’t become loyal customers.

I’ve referenced in the past my fondness of Walt Disney World ‘s standards for customer service. They leave no stone unturned in terms of the customer experience, which is why it should come as no surprise that the paper towel dispensers in the restrooms at Walt Disney World are set to release longer towels. A single wave produces a more than adequate length of towel to dry your hands.

The situation with automatic paper towel dispensers is comparable to how some members of a team treat their fellow teammates. Like businesses that use the shorter settings, they don’t consider the inefficiency of their actions and the inconvenience they cause the other members of their team. They operate in the me gear where self-interest is the basis for their decisions.

Good teammates think about how their choices impact others. They operate in the we gear and consider what is best for their team—and causing teammates to be unnecessarily inconvenienced, frustrated, or annoyed is never what’s best for their team.

Businesses setting their paper towel dispensers to release longer towels is symbolic of how those business view and value their patron’s time. Because they demonstrate loyalty and respect for their patrons, the loyalty boomerang inevitably comes back to them. The great irony is that businesses who operate like this end up experiencing sustained success and higher profits.

Their willingness to consider details as seemingly small and insignificant as the length of the paper towels released by their dispensers in their restrooms is indicative of how much they care. Good teammates offer the same level of consideration to details that affect the rest of the team.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is the founder and CEO of the Good Teammate Factory. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.


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