Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Understanding SERVICE

By Gunabalan vgbs
I recently did a talk to my staff managers about service, in preparation for them to appreciate what I considered the finer details of customer service, even if it was just how my staff responded over the phone.
It’s been my experience that the best recommendations are always word of mouth. And more importantly from the mouth of a trusted friend, whose taste you like and style you covet. That will only happen if people LIKE the service you provided.
But the million dollar question is always What do people Like?
For most that will be the easy part, Do unto others as you would others do unto you. But the part that differentiates good service from shitty service is to identify What people do not Like...In which I told a story about a flight I took on Malaysia’s No.1 airline a few years back.
For once I was at sharp end of the plane where the service is supposed to be akin to what you might expect whilst visiting an 18th-century aristocrat and so I was very excited about the few hours ahead of me. The menu was handed out as if we were at a 3 star Michelin Restaurant and for a moment we all forgot that the meal was being served by a slightly bored girl in a tight-fitting polyester suit and consisted of some pre-packed meals from a tiny oven by the toilets.
The menu spelt out the various options available to us but there in the vegetables section was the description "one of Malaysian favorite vegetables" caught my eye.
"Wow," I thought, "The airline 'chefs' have taken the trouble to research the Malaysian palate, even their little-known vegetarian taste which the myriad Malaysian families enjoy whole heartedly. 

So when the stewardess came round, I asked her what the Goethe like favorite vegetables was, to which she replied, "Onions". I was dumb founded.
The point of my rant now is the definition of service and what it really means. As I earlier speculated, what it doesn't mean is corporate programmes with ridiculous over claims. What I wanted was a simple, tasty meal, not someone to pretend that the onion was something that it wasn't. 
Another example: I took my car to be fixed recently under an insurance claim and I was told it would be ready in 2 weeks. It really took them 6 weeks. They never even tried to explain why .
But I still received a call three days later after receiving my car from a woman with a telephone headset to ask if I was happy with my "experience" with their service,maintenance & care. 
"I'm glad you called…"  I started before giving her the what for.
You don't need to know the rest; needless to say, I was pretty obnoxious.
Poor girl had no idea what to do next because nobody had given her a script entitled "What to say when the customer is angry".
The corporate types had probably sold the owners a thought that simply by ringing me and asking about my experience, I would feel good about that experience.
Cabai !
Real service is about people wanting to help you. It's literally that simple. If you are a marketing or retail manager, please take that back to your next meeting and tell everyone that they can save vast amounts of money on marketing programmes aimed at making us unsuspecting public believe that poor service is actually good service by instead hiring people who actually enjoy helping other people.
How many times have you been in a restaurant where the waiter clearly doesn't want to be serving you? I feel like asking them, "What made you apply for this job? Didn't you realize that it would involve serving people? You're a waiter, for God's sake."
Service is a product. We all adore good service and we shop in places where we are treated well. We will pay more if we are treated well and we will be incredibly loyal. Good service can keep a poor restaurant going for years against the diners' better judgment because human beings love (and I mean love) being looked after by someone who enjoys it.
Seriously, managers must realize that the longer you choose to sit in a shop or restaurant, the better the service needs to be.
I can live with my newsagent being rude while I pick up my daily copy of NST,  as the chap has seen me grow up and my daily follies and foibles but when you get a suit fitted and spend half an hour with the tailor, it's important that he appears to enjoy it as much as you do. It's also more important they pretend to enjoy your presence the more money you spend.
We all know this, so why doesn't it happen very often? I was recently in a KL hotel cafe that was probably the hottest place in town, looking at the amount of beautiful people there (!), but the service was awful. Everything I asked for was a chore, the staff were sarcastic and made it clear, purely through tone of voice, that I was wrong whenever there was a misunderstanding, and at one point I was ever so slightly nervous that I was about to hit someone, which I haven't done since I was at school. Everything was done to perfection except the service. In a hotel, service is at least 50 per cent of the product, yet this place had totally overlooked it.
So what's the answer? I have to say that I think the only way to create good service is to hire nice staff. You can't teach it. Good service comes from people who have humility, not arrogance. If you’re like the rest of us & had any working experience at all, you will know that you can tell what somebody is like and whether they're service staff material in five minutes, so it doesn't take a series of interviews.
I honestly believe that a business with poor service could improve their sales by 20 per cent or more overnight, and their customer loyalty by a multiple of that figure.
If you're a customer then please ask the question "Why on earth did you apply for this job", when you get bad service. And if you're a business owner, just remember that a customer is a supporter for life, not just for the bottom line.

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