One random morning in Mauritius, I found myself stuck at the airport waiting to check in as there was something wrong with my ticket.
This left me asking several questions:
1) No one could actually speak english properly, regardless for the fact that I couldn’t get an explanation and that it was an international airline with international clientele
2) Why was this issue not cleared when I first checked in the previous day when departing from Malaysia
3) How a customer is made to wait for almost 35mins with no feedback, indication of when a solution would be provided or if I might miss my flight
4) How a partner airline could allow for its standards to be compromised by another
These thoughts ran through my head, as well as that of not wanting to go through such an experience again. It leaves me to question how in Southern Africa, we’re only still talking about Customer Service. In 2013. Here’s why;
The kind man who was dropping me off happened to be in a similar situation, relatively. He stepped into a Starbucks shop, discovered the Hot White Chocolate option on the menu and asked if he could have a Cold White Chocolate.
The young waiter responded “We don’t offer that but let me just talk to my manager”… This in the end, resulted in my friend getting a cup of White Chocolate, cold.
The significance of that little tale is in what was explained after: “We strive to serve our customers our products certainly, but what’s more important is the experience. Our coffee is brewed even if there are no customers, its all about the lifestyle we offer”.
This, I thought to myself, is profound as ever. In a world that’s dominated by globalisation, recovery from the recession and increasing competition. Customer service can make all the difference; be it in aviation, restaurant or manufacturing. The experience your customer gets from that very service culture you instill in your staff is going to determine whether he or she will return, spend more or refer you to others.
The one thing I have learned from an employee’s perspective is that all the expertise and skills cannot make up for making someone feel undervalued or like they were shortchanged. It is through these kinds of bad experiences that I become a better service provider, but what solution is there for employees that don’t get the chance to be exposed to a different perspective? Simulation.
I cannot stress how, as a leader and follower, it is important for me to be in both sides of the story to get a true understanding of the bigger picture. All the processes, policies and communications may be there but as long as the human factor is not invested in, there shall be no added value in your product/service provision. This could be the difference between maximized profits and the bottom line, new customers and disgruntled individuals, customer service and customer experience.