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Thursday, 22 March 2012

9. Service with a SMILE please!

Early on, in-between singing gigs, I spent a good number of years waiting tables and (except for the crazies and the stalkers) I loved it!  You see, I just loved this simple equation: Attention +  Service = Tips.  KER-CHING! 

Fast forward a couple of decades, remembering how difficult the service industry can be, I try not to be a nightmare customer.   The only problem?  Good service can be hard to find and I often have to stop myself from being too blunt with my 'feedback'.

Walked into the gym the other day.  The head instructor, seeing me for the very first time (I know this because it was my first time in his gym), called out, “So!  How much weight have you lost so far?”  Shooting daggers and putting as much frost as I could muster in my voice, I replied I didn’t come to the gym to lose weight.  I know it was not the slickest of retorts but I was too busy thinking he could at least have asked my name first and then perhaps ask me how my workout was coming along as opposed to how much weight I’ve lost.  Bonehead!

I’ve also had some doozies in shops: the time I got told off by a haughty assistant at some boutique in London for not hanging the clothes back on the hanger after I’d tried them on.  Opps!  I thought that was her job seeing she was stationed at the change rooms!  Or the time I walked into a clothes store in Hong Kong and was told the change rooms were ‘broken’ (how do you break a change room?), followed with “none of the clothes in that shop” were my size anyway!  Ouch! Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything from either shop.  The ‘supermodel-in-waiting’ too busy to serve me at the cosmetic counter because they’re busy fixing their make-up or chattering like a chimpanzee on their phones; and the indifferent ‘I’m-waiting-for-my-big-break’ waitperson who is M-I-A and fails to grace my table to inform me of the plats du jour (let alone take my order!).  Their total self-absorption coupled with their lack of care for the customer just grates. Hello?!?  Doesn’t anyone want any of my hard-earned cash?  Banks and telephone companies fare no better and sometimes, dealing with them is like watching an episode of “Faulty Towers” or “‘Allo Allo”.  In fits of rage and out of pure frustration, I have oscillated between bursting into tears while sobbing how unprofessional a company was (they later sent me 2 dozen roses!) and handing out tongue lashings.  Neither one a pretty sight.

For me, however, the worst culprits are some of the jokers working in call centres who sound like they are reading from a script.  Had to ring a phone company the other day due to a spate of mis-billings which happened 6 months prior – after I had closed my account.  To add insult to injury, the mis-billings were then followed by a mountain-load of letters from debt agencies demanding I pay this bill.  I dread to think how many poor trees had to be chopped down to create the paper for all these letters – just because of some bumbling buffoon’s mistake!  A series of phone calls later, I truly thought all was sorted.  WRONG!  Got ANOTHER letter from a debt agency three weeks later. 

I rang the phone company AGAIN, spent the next 30 minutes explaining how this had to be an error, only to have this person mumble some “administration fee” mumbo-jumbo.  After he repeated it for the 5th time, I concluded I needed to go above his pay grade and asked to speak to his supervisor.  He asked why.  I told him I needed to speak to someone who didn’t read from a script and that he wasn’t a robot and needed to think outside of the box.  He hung up on me.  Aaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!

Look, I don’t necessarily adhere to the “customer is always right” notion as there are some pretty arrogant and ignorant so-and-so’s out there who are so badly behaved I want to shake them. But the point is this, good customer service is actually so simplistic.  Listen.  Empathise (if there’s a problem).  Suggest options.  Be outstanding in delivery.  Customer walks away happy.  And importantly, they will come back!

Came across this in my research today:
“You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work.  Otherwise please do us all a service and quit!” 

Think I will get this printed up on a whole lot of T-shirts and give them out! 



  1. haha, i found the labels accompanying this post particularly funny!
    that said, i'm a firm believer in writing in to the manager.
    takes a longer time, for sure, but definitely gets the point across!

    1. I hear you.. but being as lazy as I am, its not often I will bother to put pen to paper and just end up giving whatever it is the big swerve or if I'm unable to avoid using them, then someone gets an ear-bashing...

  2. love it Mich - very funny and I can totally identify! having those problems at the moment with let me least 3 companies!

  3. Oh no! Does one of those companies start with a "B" and ends with a "T"? Good luck wading through it all.. I always find it easier to keep my cool by keeping a glass of wine close by!