Home > Leadership, Organizational Culture > Customer Service Cameos – The joy of Service!

Customer Service Cameos – The joy of Service!

There are many more insights to share on the service experiences my friends and I enjoyed during last week’s trip through South Tamil Nadu. In case you missed the first one in the series please find it by clicking here.

After a 500+ km journey from Trivandrum our group reached Kodikarai (Point Calimere), which is a tiny hamlet consisting of fisher folk and families that worked at the Salt Pans, the lighthouse and for the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The place also had a permanent Research Station of BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) and a unit of Indian Defense Services.

The hamlet had two tiny restaurants to serve the town folk and occasional travelers like us. They were thatched huts and the price demanded for the simple but lovely food made us city folks wonder aloud about their business model – a sumptuous breakfast for 4 cost us Rs.71/-. Yes, you read right … Rs.71/-!!

We had tried one outlet for breakfast and the other, on the previous night, for dinner. After the bill was settled, with a shocked expression,  one of us offered the young boy, who served us (he must be 15 or 16 years of age), some money as a tip.

He was visibly embarrassed and pulled his hand away from the note as if it were a serpent. He said – “No, Sir! I don’t want it.” It was our turn to be embarrassed – that we had behaved in such an uncouth manner.

One of the locals seated in the restaurant gibed – “Stupid guy! If you don’t want the money I shall accept it on your behalf.”

But the young fellow stood his ground and refused the money – we knew that a few extra rupees would help and forced the money into his pocket saying “We enjoyed your service. This is just a small token of our appreciation for your work.”

Thinking about the event later on I felt that we lessened his worth and spirit by doing that! We had just behaved the way city-folks usually did, without giving merit to the situation.

But the next day at Rameshwaram we experienced the reverse of this phenomenon. The bellhops at the hotel pestered us non-stop for tips, that too when they had done nothing. The night we checked-in we had tipped the boy who carried our bags to the room and after checkout we had carried our own luggage to the car – no help was sought. But the staff followed us to the car and asked for money. This was a tourist town and the waiters were used to “begging” for some extra cash. This was embarrassing too.

We hear about cab drivers in certain cities who refuse to take the tip because they consider themselves ambassadors of the city. They say that the service charge is included in the fare and only the bill amount needs to be settled.

There are nurses who go way beyond the call of duty to bring relief to patients and their worried family members through exceptional acts of love and caring – and they do it without any expectations.

And, to be completely fair, we do hear about a few professionals in big corporations whose exceptional acts of service have bailed people out of all sorts of trouble – and they do it just out of passion, without expecting a quid pro quo or recognition, not even acknowledgement! They were just doing their job.

Before writing this article I viewed a video on a Chennai auto driver who took service to a different level – he was doing it in a city where the auto-drivers are usually called “cheats” and “extortionists” by most customers!

What makes these people different?

Why were they so passionate about their work – it seemed doing exceptional work was routine and gave them all the compensation?

Were they culturally tuned to not accepting freebies? Did they feel that it is demeaning to be tipped?

Was it because they were not yet corrupted by the ways of the world – they were not “smart” yet?

Were they believers of that oft stated, and never applied, cliché “Work is worship!”?

I would love to hear from all of you on this subject.

I found that young fellow’s behavior exceptional; did you?

  1. JJ
    December 5, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Culture of the land and society has an impact on nuturing one’s behaviour ….not to mention the place i reside, tips (Dash) are demanded….maybe it can be even termed extorted. It may be even stated that tips are paid for instances wherein service is not involved. Tips or Dash…Its a part and parcel of business….at least in some parts of the world

    • JayadevM
      December 5, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Hi JJ

      Thank you for reading.

      It terrible when one is forced to pay a tip – even when service is not rendered.

  2. Kathy
    December 5, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Jay i guess these are the very few who not only believe that work is worship but also believe that it is unfair to charge beyond what is due for their service.Even i had an auto driver who used to take me everywhere but charged me just whatever came on the meter.During our travel he used to tell me that he is a firm believer of what old timers used to say””That money earned through unfair means or by cheating someone does not last”.He says such people are often punished through other ways some day or the other.So his belief and the fear never let him extort extra money.But these kind of people are very very rare in these times when most people try to earn without even moving a finger.And these people who do selfless honest service are most often neither acknowledged or appreciated.Sad…but the ways of the modern world are so strange.

    • JayadevM
      December 6, 2012 at 3:22 am

      Hi Kathy

      You sure care about Service Quality and the way service is delivered. Yes, some of those good behaviours are falling by the wayside as the world turns “professional” – the new set in client-facing roles don’t seem interested in such niceties. They just do the job.

      I just hope its cyclic and soon things will return to being nice again.

      Good Service will get due recognition if delivered consistently, with honesty.

  3. Jamy
    December 6, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Jay, that young man who refused the tip definitely has amazing work ethics. A taxi driver in our resort stand David Greaves who drives a classy Mercedes S-Class once came running to me with a USD 100,00 note unsure as to whether the guest had overpaid him by mistake because he did not realise till much later that the guest was quoted about 120 Barbados Dollars and actually paid him 200 dollars ( 1 USD = 2 BBD approx). The guest had made his way to the room and so I made the call as David was very anxious to clarify the whole transaction. The guest simply stated that he was very impressed with David’s driving, the meticulous condition of the car and David’s willingness to be flexible when the guest asked him to make a couple of extra stops on the way not once mentioning anything about waiting charge or stuff like that. David left the lobby with a wide smile and the guest had David do all his transfers throughout his 14-night stay giving him a few thousand dollars of business and another fat tip at the end of their stay. The lesson to be learnt is that when you are devoted to your work and give it your best, the rewards would flow in automatically…. I have experienced that personally so many times!! Jay, great read again!!

    • JayadevM
      December 6, 2012 at 7:30 am

      Your illustration speaks for itself.

      Thank you for that value-add, Jamy!

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