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Service is not servitude!

Calvin Husbands, associate consultant, The Productivity Council

Service is not servitude!

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Service excellence will never be attained, furthermore sustained, unless we all recognize that the provision of required service does not equate to servitude or subservience.
I will not stereotypically argue that all service in Barbados is inadequate since I have received both good and bad service across public and private sector organizations. However, it was an exceptionally poor display of service (the linguistic contradictions are intended for emphasis) over a recent weekend that quickened my writing of this article.
After entering an establishment, where four people congregated around a cash register, I said good afternoon and asked for assistance in finding a product. Unfortunately, there was nothing good to come of this afternoon’s encounter, since after being made to feel as if I were talking to myself, I was then coldly told to “go look over there”. I then left that establishment and went into a nearby business where I received attentive service from several employees, which led to my purchase of the item that I sought.
This experience made me query whether for some it is no longer golden to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I wonder whether the negative service providers would be satisfied with receiving their own brand of ineffective and unprofessional service, or would they be very demanding customers?
Too often we fail to recognize at all levels (managerial and non-managerial) that good service can literally and figuratively pay dividends.
When you examine service from the perspective of a cruise passenger, service can be exemplified in providers (from officers to rank-and-file) who are hospitable, helpful and hard working. Hospitable in that despite ethnic, national and language differences, the passenger feels welcome.
Helpful in that despite an average of three passengers per member of staff, the needs of the passengers are constantly being pursued. Hard working in that staff must maintain such hospitableness and helpfulness for well over eight hours a day, seven days a week, over many months.
If service excellence is to be achieved, management must establish, monitor and revise sound operational systems; and people throughout the organization must adopt and apply customer-centred, solutions-oriented attitudes.
In a Forbes online video that showcased Virgin America, Sir Richard Branson contended that in order to create and sustain a customer-driven organizational culture, leaders must: visibly scrutinize the experience of customers and employees as a precursor to driving change.
Embody passionate commitment to engendering a superior customer experience since positive interactions truly differentiate the business.
Operationalize the mantra that employees are the greatest asset of the business.
Ensure employees have intimate knowledge of the business’ products and services while giving them autonomy to creatively address workplace situations and provide value to customers. Sir Richard asserts “it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission”.
Hire people with positive, service-oriented attitudes that will support the organizational culture.
Authentically harness corporate communications in response to customers’ feedback via social media. Mobilize smart, capable and enthusiastic employees who create an enjoyable climate that fosters satisfied and loyal customers; and recognize that listening, motivating, praising, delegating and sound financial backing are key to success.
It is necessary to move from simply being aware of the financial and psychological value of good service to organizations and customers, to actually providing positive experiences to those with whom service providers come in contact on a daily basis.
Service is not limited to customer service representatives but rather everyone should play a role in being helpful to others – whether customer, colleague or fellow citizen. Whether making a managerial decision about customer service systems or interacting with customers, we need to ask – how would I feel if I were the customer receiving the service that is being provided?
If you would not be satisfied, it follows that your customer may not be satisfied either. Remember that the customers we serve today ensure that our organizations and employment are around tomorrow.