Home > Organizational Culture > Blow them away!

Blow them away!

Service is a crucial aspect of business – being able to convey concepts such as reliability, consistency, and predictability are essential to keep your customers satisfied. Courtesy and empathy need to be founding principles of Service Delivery.

I walked into the Contact Points of two telecom companies and received contrasting responses.

At the first one my intention was to check the bill amount due post certain promised adjustments. For some reason the Service Executive I met was in a rush and it told in his behaviour – he wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible. So the moment I said my visit was about the bill he pointed to the payment machine installed in their premises.

He said – “You can pay there.”

I said – “No! No! I wish to confirm the amount first ….”

I wished to explain, but he cut me short and said – “The machine will give you the amount due.”

He started turning away from me. I wasn’t the type that got cowed down by aggressive behaviour.

I said – “Just a minute, young man! Slow down a bit and listen to me first. I will decide my next steps after you have heard me out and solved my problem.”

I made him fish out the required information from his computer and left without paying. Let them chase me a bit for the money.

This was a clear case of a Service Executive who either wasn’t trained or had forgotten his skills in the heat of the battle. He had other customers to attend to but that wasn’t an excuse for rude behaviour. I had not wasted his time or used harsh language.

At the second Service Centre I was the only customer present. While walking in I noticed the young Executive adjust her badge so that her name was visible – even without that adjustment it was clearly visible. It was funny! She did it in such an obvious manner. Knowing the tricks of the trade I smiled and started describing my requirement. Although a chair was available I remained standing knowing it would take just a few seconds to get the information. But this lady insisted thrice that I take a seat although I mentioned that it wouldn’t take long and I was fine. To avoid further repetition I sat down and rose after a few seconds when the information was delivered.

Minutes after I left the office an SMS flashed reached my phone – “You just spoke with ………. Are you satisfied with the information provided? Answer Y or N.”

I knew it was coming and replied with a Y because it mattered a lot to her.

The air-hostesses in an airline I used often used to do display such behaviour. They would note the names of a few passengers from the list provided and while serving food mention their name – “Mr. Menon, here is your lunch. Enjoy the meal.” She would fuss a bit more while serving the beverage and ensure that I get her best smile.

Afterwards, they would come around and request you to provide feedback – the passengers who were identified earlier by name would be given the Service Quality leaflets.

Having been in the Sales and Service functions I knew the game and made them earn the feedback. I would always ask the person to perform an extra duty such as fetching me a newspaper that isn’t available near my seat or an extra cup of tea. My responses in the leaflet would be based on how these non-standard tasks are performed and on how they dealt with passengers seated near me.

Service organisations need to be aware by now that customers are exposed to a number of Sales & Service situations on a daily basis – hotels, banks, insurance companies, automobile dealerships and many more. So they know that Executives are priming them up for the pitch.

It is time now that the standards are raised much further and customers are provided with the next level of care. Smiling, mentioning the name and offering a seat are the very basics and expected as a norm – the absence of such featured need to be noted rather than their presence. These basics need to be done because they care and not because a Y is expected afterwards!

Service Managers need to worry about features such as – understanding the customer’s requirement, following up, closing the loop, going the extra mile and providing hassle-free service.

The key is to be able to do these in an unobtrusive and natural way that the customer is blown away!

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  1. Kailash
    August 29, 2012 at 6:09 am

    You are right J,

    Now a days the quality of the Customer care / contact center representatives is getting worst. It was nightmare experience for me when my wife lost her cell and I had to take new SIM with same number. Apart of behavior they were not aware what exactly needs to be done if the activation is not done. Being in IT Telecom industry I know it’s a 30 mints job to activate any SIM. The representatives not only lacks techno-functional/process related knowledge but also lack basic customer handling training, as 99% of this contact centers are out sourced.

    But the other side of the story is all the telcos are going thru huge financial crunch and hence they are compromising on soft/human services to their customers, if they compromise on technical services they would lose their customer via MNP. But I believe with minimum expenditure they can handle this thing and they should not forget what benefits thy would rip in long run.

    And yeah the good behavior of a lady at 2nd incidence may be ‘coz she is aware that there will be feedback taken for her service and the 1st chap was aware that his feedback session is already done .

    • JayadevM
      August 29, 2012 at 6:58 am

      Hi Kailash

      Commiserations! Its terrible at the receiving end of bad service.

      But your 2nd paragraph provides the answer. In difficult times your customers bail you out – so instead of spending money on advertising and new customer acquisition companies should focus on retention and schemes to serve their customers better.

      But most Top Managements are short-sighted in this area.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. August 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Ha ha! They are all hugely illuminating anecdotes but I liked the bit about air-hostesses. I could visualize you making them earn those appraisals! The customer-centres of most telecom companies seem to have vowed to beat the infamous public sector hospitality by a wide margin. Great, as always.

    • JayadevM
      August 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Hi Umashankar

      Got to make them earn the rating, right? But I am fair with them when the service is rendered in the right spirit.

      Oh, yes, the private organisations in many instances perform just as bad as the public sector – and I have had some great service experiences in the much maligned government departments.

      Thank you for the appreciation. Cheers!

  3. Jamy
    August 31, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Jay, trying my best to kill a guest with kindness is what I do for a living everyday as Guest Relations Manager. I just returned from a one-week vacation in Orlando with my wife Lily, 5th anniversary celebration, where I stayed at the Radisson in International Drive and dined/lunched in several restaurants which came highly recommended.

    The keycard to my room went dead 3 days in a row and each time I reported the same, a new key was cut immediately and we were taken care of. I finally contacted the Revenue Manager and also mentioned it to the Night Manager who both gave me first impressions of being professionals and who cared for their customers- well, what do you know after that never had a problem and both persons followed up with me to ensure all is well. Moreover, both of them apologised initially when they heard about the issue whereas the others just tried to find solutions…..I mentioned that to Amber, the revenue manager as constructive criticism just before departing and she agreed that it should come naturally- so true!!
    Jay, you either have it or you don’t have it when it comes to providing true customer service- active listening by providing undivided attention to the customer, taking the minutest detail from a customer comment and running with it for the sake of fully satisfying the customer and also improving the quality of service, following up, following through as well as under-promising to over achieve does not come naturally to everyone, but a true professional would have the desire and drive to commit themselves to all of the above on a consistent basis.

    Had dinner the night before from a seafood joint called Boston Lobster Feast… we were seated by a table close to the bar and were served by the bartender/ server Bruce, a mild-mannered middle aged guy with a very charming smile and an experienced hand at being engaging with his customers; he was very proactive and at times I and Lily felt that he was reading our mind and also knew how to deal with customers of different nationalities. We were the only Asians seated in that particular area and he asked us if we would like some very hot sauce to go with certain selections that we had on our plate from the all u can eat seafood buffet- while stepping away from the table and making my way past a few other tables to the buffet for a few more helpings ( Yes, I helped myself no less than 4 times..lol!)noticed that he would remove soiled plates, refill water appropriately and replace the waste plate periodically( crab, oyster, clam, mussel and lobster shell and skin)and all with a smile always reminding us to take our time since the restaurant only closed a good 2 to 3 hours later. When a fresh set of Lobster Bisque was laid on the buffet, he brought us a bowl each to taste and it was indeed yummy. The General Manager passed by and said hi to each and every table making sure that everyone was happy and we made it a point to put in a good word for Bruce; a minute later Bruce came and thanked us for the compliment. He did bring us a slip of paper at the end inviting us to go onto a particular website and place our reviews, but his endearing service and lovely personality bowled us over and we made sure that we tipped him accordingly.

    I and Lily are going to make sure that we help Bruce in winning a competition based on positive reviews through yelp.com…..

    Here’s another one- we approached the Guest Services desk to get a 7-day pass on the I-drive trolley ( shuttle bus service) and also to enquire about the complimentary shuttle service to one of the theme parks- hahaha…. the lady with a pronounced African accent did give us the information but then started questioning us as to why we booked online and not directly with them pulling out a brochure for Westgate Resorts or something with some so-called deal….. irritating and confusing- I mean we already had tickets and we were all set.
    Jay, I could go on and on but ultimately it takes a certain skillset to provide sincere Customer Service and personally, I do not think that the right people are being hired and training needs met even in so-called reputed companies.

    • JayadevM
      September 1, 2012 at 3:52 am

      Hi Jamy

      What else can I say other than …. THANK YOU!!

      You have added to the theme developed in the story, as always!

      Yes, service is an attitude; and it can be acquired … but without it the effort just does not ring true!

      Wonderful stories from the field.

  4. September 2, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Jay…..this made a truly interesting read,made me smile after a week of hectic running around…Like you had mentioned most of the customer care people just doesn’t care or else when they care there is a large amount of artificial behaviour or some motive behind their action.We see people who behave the way they do just to get ahead in their careers…to impress their bosses and other people they work with.Caring in a natural way does not come to everyone nor can we train them to be carers unless they have the right attitude in them.

    • JayadevM
      September 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Hi Kathy

      You said it! Such behaviour can’t be imposed – has to come naturally.

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