Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why customer service matters

While on the subject of service some thoughts from an undoubted champion of customer service.

Awesome service

Japan is undoubtedly the land of awesome service. It’s not unusual for a taxi driver to stop the meter if he feels he’s taking a longer route than necessary.

On asking a Muji store associate for the nearest train station location – she pulled out a map book of Tokyo , photocopied the relevant page and then came out 2 floors to the street level to explain the directions.

On a cold and rainy in Tokyo stopped at a cafe en route to collect a sandwich takeout. The restaurant manager invited us to wait inside where it was deliciously warm and comfortable. Served hot tea while we were waiting, added an extra topping to the orders placed. Brought warmth , comfort and joy. Raised the bar for service.

What happens when friendly awesome service is delivered ? The person doing so feels good and empowered. The customer is delighted. Possibly becomes an evangelist/regular customer of that company / store. If the customer is a visiting foreigner it enhances their experience of the country. At a basic human level we seek and appreciate a sense of connectedness. Some things go beyond the realm of business.

Muji is one of the largest retailers in Japan. The cafe is a much smaller business.

Awesome service is possible at any scale of business.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

We or they ?

Visited a dept store today. The service at the counter was good (which was by the brand's team i.e not the store staff). There were 3 cash counters. Only 1 was manned. Resulting in avoidable waiting time for customers. Asked the cashier why don't they operate at least one more counter to service customers. The reply "There is a shortage of staff. They are not hiring enough people". One would have expected to hear "Sorry , we have a shortage of staff".

When a person refers to their company as "they" :

1. Maybe the company has not been able to create an environment where the person feels valued

2. If "they" are the problem then it is less likely that the person will take initiative/responsibility to address the customer's problem.

The "we/ they" problem could be specific to a location or a company wide problem. At whatever scale it exists it is detrimental to all involved - the customer , the employee and the company.

Listen to your team. What pronouns do you hear ?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mall mania

Visited a local mall . These days malls seem to let out the central space for promotions and events. The companies hosting the promotion seem to think the best way to get return for investing in the event is to do so at a decibel level which will reach out to every corner of the mall. What follows then is ear damaging decibel level.

The event at the local mall yesterday was aimed at kids. The health of the children is seriously at risk to be exposed to such decibel levels. The store I was at had glass doors. Yet the sound of the promotion pervaded drowning the sound of the music in the store. It was impossible to browse through other store windows due to the cacophony. This is counter productive for the mall and the stores.

Yours truly asked for directions to the mall office. It was located in a corner of the building. Met the mall manager and shared my views. From her expression and reactions 2 things were clear :

1. This was the first time they (she and 2 other persons from her team ) were faced with the point of view that such a decibel level is a nuisance and a health risk.

2. No visitor to the mall had ever approached them to share such feedback.

In India we see 2 extreme reactions from retail customers - either they will passively endure poor service / quality or they will get extremely aggressive. The mid path of assertive , consistent feedback is seldom adopted.

In many ways we create the environment we inhabit. Pl choose to influence it .